"All the people have been safely removed," PennDOT spokesman Steve Chizmar said this morning.

That's the good news.

But sections of three interstates west of Allentown remain closed as crews continue clearing treacherous stretches of ice and snow.

Crews worked overnight to get vehicles off interstates 78, 80 and 81, where hundreds of motorists became stranded for hours in massive tie-ups after Wednesday's storm dumped snow, sleet and freezing rain on those remote and hilly highways.

It's not just a matter of plowing, Chizmar explained. "In some areas will still have four to five inches of solid ice that is basically bonded to the roadway."

So front-end loaders are needed to bang and lift sheets of ice with their heavy buckets. Graders, which have a large blades between the front and back sets of wheels, have also been brought in to scrape down into the ice.

"Additionally, this extra time allows the chemicals we applied overnight to work, as they heat with the rising daytime temperatures," said a PennDOT statement released this morning.

Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike have been suspended to encourage more drivers to use it for east-west travel, the state announced yesterday.


Yesterday, PennDOT closed the following interstates:

I-78 in both directions between Exit 8 (Rt. 22/Fredericksburg) and Exit 49 (Rt. 100/Fogelsville).

I-80 eastbound between Exit 241 (Rt. 11/Lime Ridge) and the I-81 junction.

I-80 westbound between Exit 304 (Rt. 209 to PA 33/Snydersville) and I-81 (Exit 260)

I-81 both directions between Exit 85 (Rt. 934/Fort Indiantown Gap) and Exit 165 (Rt. 309/Wilkes-Barre).


PennDOT recommended the following detours for the closed interstates:

I-78 East - Take the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) east from Harrisburg to New Jersey.

I-78 West - Take I-476 (Pa. Tpk.) South to I-276 West to the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) West

I-80 West from New Jersey - Take U.S. 209 South to Route 33, then take U.S. 22 West or I-78 West to I-476 (Pa. Tpk.) South, then take I-76 (Pa. Tpk.) West

I-80 East - Take Exit 210, U.S. 15 South, to I-76 (Pa. Tpk.) East, then take N.J. Turnpike to I-80.

I-81 North from Pa. Turnpike - Take Pa. Turnpike East to New Jersey.

I-81 North from Harrisburg to New York or New Jersey (1) Take U.S. 15 North to New York state line, or (2) take Pa. Turnpike (I-76) East to New Jersey, or (3) take Pa. Turnpike (I-76) East to I-276 to I-476 North to I-81 at Scranton to the New York state line.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.