ALGOMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Slick, snowy conditions on US-131 north of Grand Rapids Friday led to a chain-reaction crash involving up to 50 vehicles.
The wreck shut down a stretch of southbound US-131 south of 17 Mile Road near Cedar Springs around 3:30 p.m. Dozens of vehicles slid off the highway and into the ditch, some rolling over.
Ferris State University student Zachary St. Pierre was driving home to Macomb when the conditions started to turn nasty.
“The snow got really bad, so I started slowing down. And all of the sudden it cleared and there was just piled up cars everywhere,” he told 24 Hour News 8. “There was one half on the road so I kind of had to swerve to move out of the way, and then it hit my back end and that’s when I spun out and fell into the ditch and I got stuck between two other cars.”
“God, I was just very scared; thought I was going to die. I’ve never been in an accident before or anything like that,” he continued.
St. Pierre wasn’t hurt. In fact, no one was seriously wounded. Michigan State Police said there were only a few minor injuries.
“There were no serious injuries and that’s a pretty good thing,” Trooper Matthew Williams said. “It could’ve been much worse.”
Emergency crews scrambled to check on victims as tow truck drivers flooded the area to pull mangled vehicles out of the ditch.
“It was mess. Trying to get to it and trying to get through it to my first call was just- it was crazy. Cars everywhere,” said Dillon Stanley, who works for Jerry’s Towing.
Vehicle after vehicle involved in the wreck, some of them totaled, were brought to the park-and-ride lot on 14 Mile Road, which police used as a sort of staging area.
The highway reopened just after 6 p.m. 1st Lt. Chris McIntire, the commander of MSP’s Rockford Post, praised troopers for clearing the scene in less than three hours. He said that without their hard work to clean up quickly, there may have been many more crashes.
Commuters on northbound US-131 also encountered crashes. Authorities shut down the northbound lanes at Post Drive NE for about half an hour after a crash involving a gasoline tanker truck. Dispatchers said the crash happened near 10 Mile Road in Rockford around 5 p.m.
Drivers taking back roads to avoid the highway were also at a standstill, as some roads were extremely icy.
Kent County Road Commission Maintenance Director Jerry Byrne said his crews were stuck in traffic, just like other drivers.
He said the county called in extra crews from Montcalm County to help the 25 to 30 Kent County crews salting the roads. Byrne said they were focusing their efforts on the area of M-6 at I-96 and northern Kent County.
SNOWY CONDITIONS LEAD TO MANY CRASHES
There were crashes and slide-offs all over West Michigan on Friday.
Around 8 p.m., Kent County dispatchers said a crash involving semi-trucks had shut down the intersection of 10 Mile Road and Pine Island Drive west of Rockford. Traffic was being rerouted to M-37. Dispatchers said there was no immediate word of any injuries.
Drivers reported impassable conditions around Rockford because icy conditions on hilly roads were causing slide-offs.
MDOT reported multiple crashes on East Beltline Avenue, US-131 and westbound Interstate 96, which all led to lane closures and traffic backups. Two crashes on southbound US-131 between 36th Street and 44th Street involved multiple vehicles.
Drivers were asked to slow down for the slick conditions.
Police also suggest that you keep warm clothes, food and water in your car during the winter months. When pileups like the one on US-131 happen, drivers can be stuck in the cold for long periods of time.