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Storm blamed in fatal accident, countless fender benders

February 22, 2001

Storm blamed in fatal accident, countless fender benders



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI and JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer


A swift-moving snowstorm Thursday was blamed for a Frederick County accident that claimed the life of a Myersville, Md., woman and caused countless fender benders across the Tri-State area.

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June Marie Shewbridge, 52, was pronounced dead at Frederick Memorial Hospital after her 1989 Chevy Cavalier Z-24 was hit head-on by a car driven by a Hagerstown man on U.S. 40 west of Shookstown Road, according to Maryland State Police.

Robert Christopher Bennett, 40, of Hagerstown, was driving down a wet and partially-snow covered eastbound slope shortly after 3 p.m. when he lost control of his 1977 Chevy Monte Carlo and it skidded across the center line, hitting the Cavalier, police said.

The fatality was the most serious of hundreds of accidents during the day, according to police agencies across the region.

Snow began falling fast around mid-morning Thursday as a swift cold front crossed the area, said Jim Wiesmueller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

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Even though the burst of snow occurred early in the day, emergency crews were still getting calls about accidents Thursday night.

"It's been pretty constant all night," said Maryland State Police Cpl. T.J. McKenrick.

While Wiesmueller described the cold front as a typical winter system it caught many motorists by surprise.

The past few days of springlike weather may have made drivers forget winter driving safety measures, said Steve Davis, a Maryland State Highway Administration engineer.

"Once they see a bit of black pavement they assume the roads are clear everywhere and they pick up speed," Davis said. "I can't stress it enough, slow down. It really is not worth it to save five minutes."

Much of the Tri-State area saw about three inches of snow, with 3.4 inches falling in Hagerstown, 4.5 inches recorded in Williamsport, 3.5 inches in Martinsburg, W.Va., and 3.6 inches in Chambersburg, Pa., according to the weather service and local weather observers.

Most Tri-State school systems dismissed classes early and Hagerstown Community College canceled classes.

Schools in Berkeley and Jefferson counties will be closed today and Morgan County schools will open two hours late in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.

Officials with other school districts, including Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland, were waiting until this morning to decide whether schools would open on time.

Roads were expected to be slippery this morning, Wiesmueller said.

"Icing could be a problem overnight and during morning rush hour," Wiesmueller said.

Much of the snow is expected to melt by Monday, with temperatures reaching the 40s during the weekend, he said.

Washington County Department of Transportation Superintendent Ted Wolford said he expected his workers would be "pulling an all-nighter," to make sure the roads were in good shape for today's morning commute.

Despite 47 trucks plowing county roads since 10:30 a.m., many of the roads were "slippery and snow-covered" Thursday afternoon, he said. It takes crews 12 hours after the snow stops to make all the roads passable, Wolford said.

Franklin County's roads were expected to be in good shape before crews stopped plowing Thursday, said local PennDot spokesman William McDonald.

A Waynesboro Area School District school bus had a minor mishap during the afternoon drive home when a car slid into it on Good's Dam Road in Washington Township, said Transportation Coordinator Shirley Dill.

There were two children on the bus, but no injuries were reported, she said.

"It wasn't more than a tap. They were going slow," Dill said.

Washington County school buses got all the children aboard home safely, although some were delayed in traffic because of accidents involving other vehicles, said Transportation Director Chris Carter.

Maryland State Police received several calls throughout the day about an overturned tractor trailer off the right shoulder on westbound Interstate 70 near Md. 63, but the truck would have to wait, McKenrick said.

If crews shut down traffic to right the tractor trailer, it would just cause more accidents, McKenrick said.

"It's best to leave it there," he said Thursday night.

Several accidents, including some involving trucks, occurred on Interstate 81, but by late in the afternoon, all major routes were open.

"We had a whole lot of fender-benders," a spokesman for the Martinsburg Police Department said.

Staff writers Bob Partlow and Richard F. Belisle contributed to this story.

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