EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 18, 2012

Icy conditions contribute to commuter chaos

It wasn’t the snow. It was the ice falling from the sky that created problems for area commuters yesterday.

With just an inch or less coating the ground from Sunday evening’s snow squalls, the precipitation turned to rain overnight, covering the ground, and area roadways, with a crusty glaze.

“The snowfall was not significant,” said Charlie Foley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton. “It was an inch or less. The big culprit was the freezing rain.”

He said rain falling through a cold-air mass turned to ice before hitting the ground. But once it hit the ground, it turned into a fine glaze, in some cases creating black ice.

“Just a trace of that is enough to cause problems,” he said. “Somebody hits the brakes and they slide.”

He said the worst of it was on secondary roads, although even major highways became skating rinks early in the morning.

During the morning commute, and even for a while before and after it, the roads were hazardous to drive on, according to local and state police.

On the Methuen/Haverhill line, a tractor-trailer jackknifed on Interstate 495 near Route 213, blocking two lanes of traffic at around 7:20 a.m. Monday. State Police in Andover said the scene was cleared by around 8:30 a.m., but the damage was done as commuters either sat in traffic for up to an hour or took back roads to get to work, sometimes resulting in even longer commutes.

In North Andover, police said there were accidents “all over the place” but were mostly fender benders or cars sliding off roads, with no injuries.

There was a rollover on Route 125 in North Andover around 4 a.m., police said, but that accident was cleared before the morning commute.

In Methuen, a woman backing out of her driveway collided with a Public Works truck at around 8 a.m.

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