CHICAGO (CBS) — With freezing drizzle falling across the Chicago area Wednesday morning, many roads were covered in an icy glaze during the morning commute, resulting in dozens of accidents.
At least three fatal crashes were reported in the south and west suburbs, though it wasn’t clear if all of them were the result of the weather.
Interstate 55, Interstate 57, Interstate 80, and Interstate 294 were among the hardest hit with black ice, with some parts of those highways completely covered in a slick glaze. Many drivers ended up off the road, and in the ditch in many cases.
“There’s trucks of the highway everywhere. Cars off the highway, spun out. It’s not a fun situation,” Richard Schumacher said after stopping on I-57.
The icy conditions led to multiple chain reaction crashes during the morning commute.
One man was injured after getting out of his car when he slid off I-57 near 147th Street. Another driver ran into him when her car started sliding on the ice, and she couldn’t stop.
“I couldn’t brake, and my car spinned in like three circles,” Simone Smith said. Her car ended up in the ditch near the other man’s car.
That crash ultimately led to another, as more cars spun out on the ice.
The Illinois Department of Transportation said it was doing its best to clear ice as quickly and safely as possible during the morning rush, with about 300 trucks spreading salt.
Illinois State Police said more than 100 crashes were reported on Chicago area highways Wednesday morning, in addition to many cars spinning out and ending up in ditches.
State police said there were so many accidents during the morning commute, they simply couldn’t keep up, and were focusing on those that involved injuries first.
Conditions were so bad on I-80 at one point that Illinois State Police troopers shut down the entire interstate, causing a gargantuan backup near the I-294 interchange. Eventually traffic came to a standstill.
There were at least three fatal crashes across the southern and western suburbs Wednesday morning, and it appeared icy conditions might have been a factor in at least two.
Around 2 a.m., a Toyota sedan crashed into a semi-trailer truck near 145th and Indiana in Riverdale, killing the car’s driver. Police have not confirmed preliminary reports the car was speeding.
In Tinley Park, a semi headed south on LaGrange Road near 178th Street crossed the median, and hit a car headed north around 5:45 a.m. Police said the driver of the car was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was in the car at the time, and the truck driver was not hurt.
Around 7 a.m. in North Aurora, a Pace bus and three other vehicles were involved in a crash on Route 31 north of Oak Street. The driver of one of the cars was pronounced dead at the scene.
The bus driver suffered minor injuries. Two passengers on the bus were not hurt. No other injuries were reported. Kane County Sheriff’s officials said icy road conditions appeared to be a factor.
In Markham, Wood Street would prove to be too much for a driver who took out a light pole, before jumping the curb and slamming into a tree. That motorist was likely saved by the airbag in his car.
Police have said, if you can, change your plans for the day and avoid driving. That’s exactly what Schumacher did as he prepared to head south on Interstate 57.
“It’s pretty slick. I just bailed on a trip to Champaign. I was going to be an hour and a half late for the meeting if I got there,” he said.
Conditions on the interstates improved significantly by late Wednesday morning, after IDOT trucks managed to spread salt on the icy roads.