ST. LOUIS - A perfect storm of freezing rain and rush hour traffic caused a nightmare scenario in the St. Louis area Wednesday, including one accident involving about 20 vehicles that left 21 people injured.
The unexpected ice storm began just before 5 a.m. and resulted in wrecks throughout the region. The worst was on Interstate 64 near downtown St. Louis, where about 20 cars and a couple of semis slid on an icy hill. Among those involved in the wreck were ambulances and fire trucks responding to the accident.
St. Louis Fire Capt. Dan Sutter said 21 people were injured in the accident, one critically, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
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 another multi-car wreck at I-64 and Kingshighway. Wilson said he had no reports of fatalities or serious injuries.
The accidents brought morning rush hour traffic to a standstill.
Wilson said most of the accidents occurred at bridges, overpasses, on-ramps and off-ramps. Recent unseasonably warm weather has made for warm ground, causing ice to melt when it hit pavement on most of the roadways.
"But the ramps, bridges and overpasses get wind, and they don't have the ground to heat up," Wilson said.
The problems were widespread. The Jefferson Barracks Bridge over the Mississippi River at south St. Louis County was completely closed for a time. The Eads Bridge at St. Louis was closed. Sections of Interstates 55, 255, 270 and 170 were closed in spots. Entrance and exit ramps were closed at several locations.
Wilson said the storm hit mostly in St. Louis and just to the north, through the Troy area.
The ice was short-lived - by 7:30 a.m. the temperature had warmed above freezing, though many overpasses, ramps and bridges remained slick. Forecasters were expecting the temperature to warm to near 50 degrees.