Dozens of motorists became stranded in Preston County late Monday night as widespread snow and ice pummeled the area.
At least a dozen tractor trailers and tens of other vehicles got caught in a snow and ice storm along Interstate 68, forcing emergency officials to open an impromptu shelter at the Bruceton Mills Fire Department. Motorists heading eastbound toward Maryland were asked to get off at an exit before Bruceton Mills to find a hotel or another place to sleep for the night.
Another shelter was set up just after midnight at the Reedsville Fire Department along Route 7. Dispatchers said the situation got “worse and worse” as the night progressed.
Officials with the Office of Emergency Management pleaded with motorists to avoid the area. Calls inundated the 911 center of motorists becoming stuck in the weather. Up to four inches of snow covered I-68 Monday night. The stranded vehicles made it more difficult to clear the roadway.
At 11:30 p.m. Monday, the Division of Highways said it was shutting down I-68 in that area to avoid any additional problems. The interstate was shut down from milemarker 15 to the Maryland state line.
OEM workers asked all motorists to avoid driving unless necessary. Multiple vehicles from the Manown Mini Mart to the Kingwood city limits on Route 7 slid off the roadway into ditches, dispatchers said.
Driving from Terra Alta to Aurora also was nearly impassable, dispatchers reported.
The troubles along I-68 extended into Garrett County, Md. where officials reported massive backups and numerous accidents Monday evening.
Preston County OEM workers said the roadways were expected to only get worse overnight into Tuesday. Reports of up to nine inches of snow
The fire department in Bruceton Mills set up the shelter at the fire station on Union Street. Dispatchers asked stranded motorists to find a way off exit 23 and turn on Route 26 toward Bruceton, then left on Old Route 73. After passing Mill Street, Union Street is on the right. The fire station is located a couple blocks from that location.
Dispatchers said the fire department was working to ensure cots would be available.
There were also trees reported down around Preston County and power outages were mounting late Monday night.
“Trees are just down absolutely everywhere,” a dispatcher said.