Officials: 219 accidents, 200 hospitalized during winter storm

RAW VIDEO: Vehicles slip on icy interstate after tractor trailer jackknifes
485 Overpass closed down
485 Overpass closed down

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Hundreds of vehicle wrecks were reported Monday night into Tuesday morning as winter weather moved across the WBTV viewing area. People are being urged to stay off the roads if at all possible.

Medic also reported taking hundreds of patients to the hospital between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.

Road conditions in several areas began deteriorating quickly Monday evening as a mix of sleet, freezing rain and some snow began to fall. Accidents were reported on major roads as well as secondary roads.

Medic said between 3 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday, 200 people were taken to the hospital. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say in the same time frame, they responded to 219 accident calls.

Mecklenburg EMS said that between midnight and 5 a.m. on Tuesday, they responded to two traffic accidents. They expect that number to increase as more people drive to work.

By 7 a.m., the Charlotte Department of Transportation said ice was starting to break on the streets. Plowing operations began at 4 a.m. and continued through the morning.

Medic said that between 3 and 10 p.m. Monday, they responded to 87 traffic accidents in Mecklenburg County that were weather-related, with the busiest times between 6 and 8:30 p.m. From those wrecks, they took 135 people to area hospitals.

Tuesday morning, officials said the only major roadway closed was inbound Independence Boulevard onto Interstate 277, which reopened just before 7 a.m.

City manager Ron Carlee sent out a tweet at 6:28 p.m. Monday that read "Accidents ramping up -- 26 in past 3 hours. Time to get off and stay off of CLT streets if you can."

"We are very fortunate so far that many drivers heeded our warnings and got off the roads early, but we are nowhere near out of the woods yet," NC Governor McCrory said in a statement released Monday evening.

McCrory continued, "The prediction totals are increasing for many areas and that could very well continue to change as the storm progresses so please stay off the roads if you possibly can until conditions improve."

Troopers told WBTV just before 9:30 p.m. that I-77 northbound and southbound between the state line and mile marker 73 - a distance of more than 17 miles - was "nothing but a sheet of ice."

At 8:15 p.m., multiple collisions were reported on I-77 northbound and southbound near Rock Hill in York County. At least 2 dozen crashes were reported within a 5-mile stretch of road around mile marker 82.

Just before 7:30 p.m., Mecklenburg County EMS reported a multi-vehicle accident on inbound Independence Boulevard going to the I-485 inner loop, and advised drivers to avoid the area if possible.

Around 8:30 p.m., officials closed the flyover ramp from I-77 to I-485 due to ice on the bridge. By 10 p.m., there were four vehicles still stuck on the bridge.

At 7 p.m. at least eight vehicles were involved in a pile-up on the exit ramp from Independence Boulevard to Charlottetown Avenue.

Two multi-vehicle accidents were reported on I-85 southbound near mile marker 30 just after 5 p.m. North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) officials said the road was deemed impassable, and ruled it a "high severity incident."

NCDOT spent the last several days treating roads with more than 1.3 million gallons of salt brine across NC. Crews say they will continue to work through the night and into the morning.

Despite proactive efforts, the wintry precipitation and cold temperatures are creating hazardous travel conditions, and people are being urged to stay off the roads if it's possible.

"We urge everyone to stay off the roads and allow our trucks to do the clearing work for the safety of our employees and all drivers," said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. "The cold temperatures are likely to produce additional slick spots after the first round of clearing so please monitor conditions closely and if you have to travel use extreme caution."

Motorists are reminded NOT to call 911 or the State Highway Patrol Communication Centers for roadway conditions.

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