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Hardin County’s first hazardous bite of winter weather proved treacherous Friday, turning roads and parking lots into solid ice, shuttering local school districts and paralyzing Interstate 65 traffic for several hours.
A band of freezing rain coated the county, causing an eight-car pileup in Upton and several rear-end collisions and fender benders throughout Hardin and surrounding counties.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 4 in Elizabethtown closed I-65 between Hart and Barren counties and restricted southbound access between Elizabethtown and Upton because of crashes and slippery conditions.
Chris Jessie, public information officer for KYTC District 4, said another major pileup occurred in Warren County while a bus crash plagued I-65 near the Hart and Barren County border.
“It’s really affecting the whole corridor,” Jessie said Friday morning.
As crews around the county treated and cleared major roadways, I-65 remained blanketed in ice because of the lack of driver movement. State trucks were struggling with the ice like everyone else, slipping, sliding and finding it difficult to maneuver around all of the crashes, Jessie said.
A rush in demand also arose for tow trucks, but the backlog of stranded or damaged vehicles left them in short supply. Jessie said wreckers also had trouble getting to vehicles on I-65 because of the closures and the obstacles on the roadway, such as cable barriers.
“It’s tough out here,” he said.
Ira Dyer, deputy director of Hardin County EMS, said no major injuries were reported in the Upton pileup and residents responded well to the weather by staying indoors or practicing restraint and precaution when traveling. Aside from a few slip-and-falls and a small influx between 4 and 6 a.m. Friday, Dyer said call volumes were manageable.
“Overall, we have been doing well with it,” he said.
Dyer said those stranded at home often experience “cabin fever,” but he hoped it did not lead to bad decisions or questionable behavior.
The southbound lanes of I-65 were opened by Friday afternoon, while northbound was open to travel later in the day.
In Elizabethtown, wrecks piled up well before noon. Elizabethtown Police Department spokesman Virgil Willoughby counted 22 crashes by early morning’s end.
“Not anything too serious, just a lot of fender benders,” he said.
Other motorists drove off the icy roadways. In one particular case, Willoughby said, a woman lost control of her vehicle and drove onto a sidewalk, where she was rear-ended by a teenage motorist who had never driven on ice before and was traveling too fast for the conditions, Willoughby said.
Main roads, which gained chief priority, were starting to clear with aid from public works crews by early morning, leaving secondary streets and parking lots as the most dangerous locations to drive, Willoughby said.
Radcliff Police Department spokesman Bryce Shumate said police worked three crashes in Radcliff and four in Vine Grove by early morning, including a rollover crash at the intersection of Ky. 220 and U.S. 31W.
“No one was hurt, thank goodness,” Shumate said.
All of those crashes were caused by icy conditions, Shumate said, none of which resulted in injuries.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Reporter Kelly Cantrall contributed to this story.