FINZEL, Md. – Crews on Saturday cleared away the wreckage of nearly 90 vehicles after a series of pileups that killed two people and injured dozens of others, and reopened Interstate 68 (search) to holiday travelers.
A jumble of cars, trucks and tractor-trailers had jammed the roadway and shoulders after the pileups began along a fog-shrouded mountain ridge Friday afternoon. Saturday, strong winds still carried the smell of gasoline up to a half-mile away.
"The magnitude of vehicles and the damage and devastation was mind-boggling," said Cpl. Rob Moroney, a state police spokesman.
One of the victims, Jason Howell, 26, of Ohio, was killed after leaving his vehicle, state police said. The other, Regina Daudet, 66, of Centreville, Va., was a passenger in a car. At least 60 other people were injured, including one hospitalized in critical condition Saturday.
State Police Maj. Vernon Herron said the accidents started when a truck hit a van and the van overturned in the westbound lanes, starting a series of chain reactions.
In the eastbound lanes, someone apparently slowed down to watch what was happening and was struck, starting another chain reaction, Herron said.
That stretch of interstate wasn't the only one shut down at the start of the long Memorial Day holiday.
In Nebraska, travel on Interstate 80, the nation's busiest highway and the major east-west corridor through the state, was also being rerouted Saturday after a tractor-trailer hit a bridge support, causing part of the bridge to collapse.
The driver of the truck was killed in the collapse, and a 10-mile stretch of I-80 near Big Springs, just northeast of the Colorado border, was shut down indefinitely.
In Maryland, visibility had been near zero Friday afternoon when the pileups began on Big Savage Mountain (search), an Appalachian ridge, Garrett County Emergency Director Brad Frantz said.
The crashes started about 1:45 p.m., according to the State Highway Administration. The National Weather Service (search) put out a fog advisory for the area at 3:12 p.m., said Josh Korotky, a science and operations officer with the National Weather Service.
The area's elevation ranges from 2,800 feet to 3,000 feet above sea level, and it is prone to fog.
"If you have low clouds and you drive into the mountains, it's like driving into the clouds," Korotky said.
Bill Sorah, a financial services consultant from Douglassville, Pa., was traveling to visit his parents in Charleston, W.Va., with his wife and two small children. He said that as the collisions began, he pulled off the road, but his van was still hit.
"It was a like war zone," Sorah said. "They were coming, just 60, 70 miles per hour, slamming into each other."
The fog was expected to lift Saturday afternoon but clouds and a chance of thunderstorms were in the forecast, said Dave Sisk, a National Weather Service meteorologist.