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Icy roads cause hundreds of crashes, at least 4 deaths in Chicago area

John Keilman and Alicia Fabbre, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Weather News

CHICAGO -- Hundreds of traffic crashes, at least four of them fatal, were reported Wednesday morning as freezing rain glazed roads in the Chicago area.

Illinois State Police reported more than 200 crashes alone in its district in the Joliet area.

The fatal crashes included a fiery collision between a car and semi in Riverdale, another collision between a car and semi in Tinley Park, one involving three cars and a Pace bus on Illinois Highway 31 near North Aurora, and one on the Tri-State Tollway near the Hinsdale Oasis.

The crashes occurred as the area was under a winter weather advisory that warned of freezing drizzle and slippery roads. The worst icing was reported in the south and west suburbs, according to the state police.

Crashes became so frequent that state police Sgt. George Del Rio recommended motorists in Will County stay off the interstates or, at least, slow down.

"Traffic's at a standstill pretty much everywhere," he said.

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Weather forced the closure of several schools in the Joliet area, and garbage collection was suspended in Joliet, where about 50 crashes were reported in early-morning hours, authorities said.

Michael Pogwizd said he was fueling up at a Hickory Hills gas station about 6 a.m. when a car pulling into the lot slid uncontrollably into the pump, knocking it onto Pogwizd's Chevy Malibu.

A small fire broke out, which Pogwizd captured in a photograph before putting it out with an extinguisher. Two other crashes happened in the lot soon thereafter, said Hickory Hills police Lt. Tim Stevens.

"It was like a crazy ice-dancing car show," Pogwizd said. "The policeman even said he'd never seen anything like this in 15 years."

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