Freezing rain causes 31-vehicle wreck in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A perfect storm of freezing rain at morning rush hour on Wednesday caused numerous wrecks around the St. Louis area, including one 31-vehicle pileup near downtown.

Only about 0.10-inch of freezing rain fell over an hour-and-a-half period starting around 4 a.m., but it was enough to cause extremely slick spots, especially on bridges, overpasses and ramps, just as the morning commute got under way. Three accidents in the city of St. Louis involved nine vehicles or more.

The worst accident happened around 5 a.m. on the eastbound Interstate 64 near downtown and involved 31 vehicles, including three tractor-trailers and five emergency vehicles responding to the wreck — two fire department vehicles and three ambulances.

Twenty-one people were hurt. Police spokesman Michelle Robertson said one victim was in critical condition, the other 20 had minor injuries. The eastbound lanes were closed for nearly five hours as tow trucks hauled away mangled cars.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. Jeff Wilson said troopers responded to up to 60 separate accidents in St. Charles, Lincoln and St. Louis counties, the areas hit hardest by the ice. St. Louis city police handled the 20-car pileup on I-64 and several other accidents. Wilson said he had no reports of fatalities or serious injuries.

The accidents brought morning rush hour traffic to a standstill.

Tom Blair, assistant engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s St. Louis District, said the freezing rain caught everyone off-guard.

“It was definitely unexpected, unforecasted, all those words,” Blair said. “We were planning on this morning getting in the mode of patching potholes.”

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