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Freezing Rain Leads To Dangerous Commute, Dozens Of Accidents

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Freezing rain and sleet falling in the region led to dangerous road conditions and dozens of accidents Friday morning. In addition, the weather is also wreaking havoc for travelers at the airport.

(Sidewalks -- especially brick -- were coated with ice in center city Philadelphia.  Photo by John McDevitt)

(Sidewalks — especially brick — were coated with ice in center city Philadelphia. Photo by John McDevitt)

The freezing rain caught many off-guard, including many road crews who were left scrambling to treat roads.

There were reports of dozens of accidents in the area, including one on the Walt Whitman Bridge that forced its closure at about 8:30 a.m. The bridge was fully reopened about an hour later.

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 KYW’s Mike DeNardo reports that it was any icy mess outside Nancy Ortiz’s front door in Pennsauken, NJ.

“I saw everything slick and slippery.  As a matter of fact, as I was getting out the door I almost fell,” she said.

Roads were coated in a wet sheen of ice, and traffic crawled.  Drivers found that if they went fast, they lost traction quickly.

Nancy’s commute from Pennsauken to neighboring Cherry Hill took twice as long this morning.  She hadn’t expected conditions to be so bad.

“That’s what I was amazed at, because I didn’t see any salt trucks,” she said, “but yet the roads, every time you stop at a stop sign or at a light, you slip.”

And once she got to her job at the Allstate Insurance office on Route 70, she walked gingerly on the wet, icy sidewalk to stay upright.

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KYW’s Tony Hanson reports from South Jersey that it didn’t last long, but conditions on many roads and sidewalks were as dangerous as they get: a sheet of ice from freezing rain.

Jackie Bond was driving her son Matt to school, but they turned around.

“We decided that life was more important than getting to school today,” she said.

Another boy walking to school said he had fallen six times but, like others, he slipped on ahead.

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CBS 3’s Syma Chowdhry reports in Hamilton Township, NJ school buses were ordered to stop were they were until the roads were safer.

Even some officials had trouble this morning.

“It’s a sheet of ice. My car when I came out, my car slid into the curb,” Chief Thomas Gribbin of Hamilton Fire said.

There were several reports of accidents, including a fatal one in Pine Hill.

Police say a 29-year-old woman was driving an SUV on West Branch Road when she spun out and was struck by an NJ Transit bus that couldn’t stop in time because of the icy conditions (See Related Story).

The woman died and a passenger from her car is in serious condition.

“I would’ve preferred there be no accidents,” Sam Martello of Camden County Public Works said.

Crews at the Camden County Public Works salt yard in Lindenwold say they hit the roads as early as possible but.

“We were under the impression from our service that it was going to be patchy ice and the whole region got a coating of ice,” Martello said.

Many people tweeted the issues they were running into during the morning commute, including overturned salt trucks and emergency responders.

And it wasn’t just vehicles sliding around. Slips and falls meant hospital visits.

“We all get emails the day before about weather events coming so we can plan the day accordingly,” Dr. Michael Kirchhoff said.

Doctors like Dr. Kirchhoff at Cooper Urgent Care saw many weather related injuries Friday morning.

“A lot of strain ankles and knees and shoulders, a lot of bruising and contusion,” Dr. Kirchhoff said.

The best advice when you see this type of weather?

“When you are leaving your house go slow, use the handrails beware there may be ice conditions,” he said.

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The Philadelphia International Airport had a ground stop in effect until about 10:30am due to low visibility. (READ: Travel Guide)

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Philadelphia Police say the outer lanes of the Roosevelt Boulevard between Cottman Avenue and Ryan Avenue in both directions were closed due to icy conditions.

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Police in Gloucester Township, New Jersey say the department received and responded to about 71 motor vehicle crashes and traffic incidents between the hours of 7 a.m. to 10:12 a.m. Traffic delays also occurred throughout the township.

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In Cinnaminson, New Jersey, a salt truck that was out treating the roads somehow overturned and ended up on its side (top photo).

Police departments in the area are urging drivers to stay off the roads until the ice melts. But if you must be on the road, you are urged to exercise extreme caution.

A freezing rain advisory is in effect for Philadelphia and its surrounding counties until 1 p.m.

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