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Freezing fog a major factor when 30-vehicle pileup sends 3 to hospital

By Provided by AccuWeather, Accuweather.com
A pileup involving at least 30 vehicles sent three people to local hospitals outside of Kittitas, Wash., on Wednesday morning and forced the closure of Interstate 90 East. Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol
A pileup involving at least 30 vehicles sent three people to local hospitals outside of Kittitas, Wash., on Wednesday morning and forced the closure of Interstate 90 East. Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol

Three people in central Washington were sent to local hospitals Wednesday morning after multiple collisions involving at least 30 vehicles near the town of Kittitas.

According to the Washington State Patrol, at least 12 semi-trucks and 18 other vehicles were involved in the pileup that took place in frigid, foggy conditions.

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The collision took place around 5:30 a.m. PST on Interstate 90 outside Kittitas and nearby Ellensburg. The injuries of the three sent to hospitals, including one semi-truck driver, were not considered to be life-threatening. Among the other vehicles involved was an ambulance, photos from the scene show.

A state patrol trooper said freezing fog was a main contributor to the collisions. At Ellensburg Bowers Field, an airport about 6 miles northwest of the accident site, a weather station reported the temperature at the time of the crash was 22 degrees F. The airport's official weather station reported clear skies. But the station is about 100 feet higher in elevation than the airport, meaning the station was likely above the fog bank that factored into the pileup.

A load of goods was spilled onto Interstate 90 East in central Washington Wednesday morning after a pileup involving at least 30 vehicles. Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol
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Freezing fog was also noted as a factor in several eastern Washington crashes Wednesday morning, according to state patrol in the city of Kennewick, which is about 100 miles southeast of Kittitas.

Freezing fog is defined as fog that forms when the temperature at the surface is at or below the freezing mark of 32 degrees F. On top of the reduced visibility hazard, freezing fog can bring additional danger for travelers, AccuWeather meteorologist Ryan Adamson said.

A pileup involving at least 30 vehicles outside of Kittitas, Wash., on Wednesday morning forced a heavy cleanup on Interstate 90 East. Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol

"When freezing fog forms, any moisture deposited by the fog onto roadways can also freeze," Adamson said. "This can cause icy spots, especially on bridges and overpasses, so motorists need to exercise extra caution when there is fog with temperatures below freezing."

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Transportation officials announced that I-90 East would remain closed for up to 12 hours after the incident near Kittitas. Traffic was being diverted from the Kittitas exit of I-90 onto local roads. Cleanup of the collision will require tow trucks and other units, which headed to the scene shortly after the accident. One truck spilled a load of apples onto the interstate, troopers noted.

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