53 crashes on New Jersey highways in challenging Monday snow
WESTAMPTON — A sloppy, snowy morning caused problems for the Monday morning commute, including a full closure of the northbound New Jersey Turnpike.
Bands of heavy snow that set up across the state roughly along Route 78 were to blame for some of the problems on the road.
"It's impossible to predict the exact location and intensity of mesoscale convective snow bands — the parts of the storm where snow just 'pours' from the sky. But even 24 hours in advance of the storm, we were confident they would happen on Monday. And we knew if such truly heavy snow happened at some point, road conditions would deteriorate rapidly," New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said about the storm.
New Jersey Fast Traffic's Bob Williams said road conditions varied from black to slush and accumulated snow.
"It wasn't until 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. that we started to see widespread improvement especially in areas where the snow accumulated over 5 inches," he said.
Some school districts delayed the opening of school on Monday, with a couple of districts deciding to close all together as the snowfall got heavier.
State Police said that in just three hours between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Monday, troopers responded to 53 motor vehicle crashes and 53 assistance calls for spinouts, flat tires and breakdowns.
One of the worst incidents was a tractor trailer that overturned on the northbound New Jersey Turnpike approaching exit 6 for the NJ Turnpike/Pennsylvania Turnpike just before 8 a.m., blocking all lanes, according to State Police. Many drivers diverted to Route 295, which was already slow with numerous spinouts and generally slow because of the snow.
As of 11 a.m., just the right lane was blocked as the cleanup and investigation continued.
Zarrow said that the heavier snow bands did not happen along the Routes 195 and 295 in South and Central Jersey. He blamed the sleet that fell for possibly making the roads a bit more spipplery
"Monmouth County got a taste of heavier snow at the tail end of the storm, but it was way after the point when that stretch of the Parkway was an absolute mess," Zarrow said.
The NJ Department of Transportation deployed 1,100 pieces of equipment, with crews applying brine to state highways on Easter Sunday, according to spokesman Steve Schapiro,
He said the snow came in "very hard and very fast" and combined with dropping temperatures, that made for challenging conditions for road crews.
"As those temperatures fall the moisture on the roadway that starts off as rain can get very slick, it can freeze and in North Jersey. Particularly there was a very high rate of snow falling which makes it difficult to keep up smack dab in the middle of the morning commute," Schapiro said.
The numerous spinouts and slow-moving traffic didn't help either.
"The road crews can't get by. Once that happens the conditions of the road will deteriorate quite quickly past wherever that accident scene was," Schapiro said.
New Jersey Turnpike Authority Thomas Feeney said his agency's crews were well aware and prepared for the snow but their biggest problems were in areas where the precipitation started as rain and then turned to a mix of precipitation.
"Once there's a few fender benders they cause delays and then between the heavy traffic and lack of access to certain areas it's tough to get the salt trucks and plows through."
Zarrow said the morning commute will be a bad memory by the afternoon commute, with the sun coming out and temperatures in the 40s.