WASHINGTON – Mother Nature had scant love for the eastern part of the United States on Valentine’s Day, continuing a streak of miserable and deadly weather that has turned much of the nation into a snowy, icy mess and caused a major pileup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Two major pileups and smaller fender-benders involving tractor-trailers and scores of cars blocked one side of an ice-coated Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia on Friday, injuring at least 30 people and tying up traffic for hours.
The eastbound crashes were reported just before 8:30 a.m., in the middle of rush hour and about five hours after a storm that dropped a foot of snow in the area finally moved out.
Rush-hour motorists said the roadway was very slick, calling into question whether it had been adequately treated. State police also suspect sun glare might have played a role.
The accidents created a five-mile traffic jam between the Bensalem and Willow Grove exits of the state’s primary east-west highway. The jam was cleared by the middle of the afternoon, and turnpike officials reopened the roadway in both directions by 4 p.m.
Ambulances took 30 people from the scene, but none of the injuries were believed to be major, turnpike spokesman Bill Capone said. Abington Memorial Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center received many of the patients, but spokeswomen at the two facilities said none of the injuries was life-threatening.
As the South and mid-Atlantic regions continued to dig out Friday, the storm, carrying heavy snows and gusty winds, moved through New England, according to the National Weather Service.
Despite sunny skies in previously hard-hit regions, hundreds of thousands of people remained without electricity, mainly in the South, and more than 20 people have died, including a pregnant woman killed by a plow in Brooklyn. Her baby son was delivered by emergency cesarean section Thursday.
Snowfalls, already at record levels after a series of storms this season, continued to accumulate. More than 22 inches of snow was reported in Somerset County, Pa., and parts of upstate New York received more than 2 feet of snow.
One of the biggest concerns remained the power outages, caused by heavy ice that coated and weighed down power lines and trees. More than 1 million utility customers lost power as the storm moved across the country. By Friday morning, it had dropped to about 440,000 outages mostly in South Carolina and Georgia.
The treacherous weather was blamed for nearly two dozen deaths, many of them in motor vehicle accidents that began earlier in the week in Texas.
Washington received nine inches of snow Thursday; Westminster, Md., reported 19 inches; and Newark, Del., had 14 inches. New York City received nearly 10 inches, and parts of New Jersey had more than 11.
Washington on Friday was digging out of its biggest storm of the season.
Federal offices and airports were open Friday, and the District of Columbia government lifted its snow emergency, though many schools were closed another day.
The commute was dicey and icy around the nation’s capital.
A stretch of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway was closed for 2 ½ hours because of icy conditions. More buses were put back into service, but the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority warned commuters to expect detours in order to keep buses “off of hilly terrain, narrow side streets and other problem areas.”
Contributing to the difficult commute was that more snow fell Thursday night after plows cleared roads earlier in the day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.