February 19, 2014 at 3:01 pm

50-vehicle crash closes I-80 in Pennsylvania

Some of the vehicles involved in a multi-vehicle crash are seen on the side of the highway on Interstate 80 between Exit 120 and Exit 133, east of Clearfield, Pa. on Wednesday. (Deven Clarke / WJAC-TV)

Shawville, Pa. — A chain-reaction crash involving an estimated 50 vehicles, most of them tractor-trailers, on icy Interstate 80 in western Pennsylvania forced the closure of westbound lanes for much of the day. No serious injuries were immediately reported.

The crashes began shortly before dawn Wednesday as ground still frozen from weeks of low temperatures and snow caused rain to turn to ice, despite temperatures above freezing. The pileup involved a gasoline tanker, though it’s not clear if that was the first vehicle to crash, and became more involved as dozens of vehicles crashed into one another or into guide rails trying to stop.

The westbound vehicles piled up near the Clearfield/Shawville exit, about 120 miles from the Ohio border and about 85 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Clearfield Fire Chief Chad Baughman told WJAC-TV that initial reports showed that 40 tractor-trailers and 10 passenger vehicles were involved. Pennsylvania State Police were investigating the crash and did not immediately release the number or type of vehicles.

Police at the scene said injured motorists were taken to nearby Clearfield Hospital, where spokeswoman Amy Duke told The Associated Press that 14 people were being treated for “mild to moderate injuries.” It was not immediately clear if any injured people were taken to other hospitals.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closed the highway in both directions so emergency vehicles could access the crash using the eastbound lanes, which reopened by about 10 a.m.

The westbound lanes remained closed between the Clearfield exit and one near Phillipsburg, about 13 miles to the east, and weren’t expected to reopen until 10 p.m., according to PennDOT spokeswoman Marla Fannin.

PennDOT similarly closed the westbound lanes of I-80 lanes between Loganton and Lock Haven, about 50 miles east of the pileup, after reports of jackknifed tractor trailers. Those lanes reopened about 11 a.m.

Wednesday’s pileup comes five days after two major pileups and smaller fender-benders involving tractor-trailers and scores of cars blocked the eastbound Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia. At least 30 people were hurt in those crashes, though none seriously.

That happened about 8:30 a.m. Friday, just after a storm that dumped a foot of snow in the area.