ALBANY, Ore. – Traffic remained slow Thursday evening along Interstate-5, ten hours after a chain of crashes in the southbound lanes.
The Oregon Department of Transportation says 25-30 vehicles crashed on I-5 just north of Albany around 8 am, causing the freeway to back up for miles.
Joe Squire, the ODOT’s District 4 Maintenance and Operations Manager says the freeway was backed up four to five miles. He says nobody was seriously injured in the crashes, but that one woman was transported to the hospital for minor injuries after she crashed into a semi-truck.
“Several vehicles spun out in the snow and ice,” Squire said. “Once that happened, a chain reaction of accidents occurred.”
The south bound lanes were closed for several hours before a single lane was opened.
One driver, Elizabeth Stowell, says she was on her way back home to Albany from Salem.
“I was driving a little slower because it was darker and snowing,” she said. “And all of a sudden, the cars in front of me started fish tailing off to the side of the road.”
Around 8 am, she says she lost control of her vehicle and hit the ditch.
“A very frightening experience,” she said. “You just think, are you going to overturn? Is another car going to come up on top of you?”
Stowell says she waited for three hours before she was able to get back on the road. But behind her, a semi-truck crash blocked both lanes, causing longer delays for other drivers.
One towing company says the series of crashes was the worst pile-up it had ever seen in a storm.
“We’ve been towing one after another,” said Steve Perlenfein, one of the owners of AA Towing in Albany. “All our trucks are on I-5 right now. OSP requested we have all our trucks out here to try to get I-5 open. It’s terrible. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
ODOT says the crashes serve as a good reminder for drivers to be prepared if they have to go out in the weather.
“Make sure they’re fully fueled any time there’s a storm system,” Squire said. “Have extra clothing, have some snacks and some water.”
But Squire says it is also important to be prepared to stay in one spot for a long period of time.
“Bring blankets and sleeping bags,” he said. “Always carry that extra where you might have to shelter-in-place so to speak.”