A series of weather-related wrecks involving 46 vehicles — cars, trucks, a boat, even a fire truck — snarled traffic on Interstate 75 in Lexington for hours Friday afternoon. About 20 people were injured, and 14 were taken to local hospitals.
Northbound and southbound lanes were closed between mile marker 110, the Winchester Road exit, and mile marker 118, where I-75 and Interstate 64 split. Traffic backed up for miles after the first wreck was reported shortly after 2 p.m.
The lanes were reopened about 5:30 p.m., just as the sun began peeking out from behind clouds after a day of heavy rain in the area. Traffic remained slow through rush hour.
Lexington fire Major Ed Davis said the fire department was first called after four wrecks happened within 20 minutes. Heavy rain caused low visibility and pools of water on the roads leading to the wrecks, officials have said.
A fire truck heading to a flipped vehicle on the northbound lanes of I-75 crashed into the back of a Richmond Petroleum Inc. tanker truck, hitting a fuel pipe, Davis said. Davis said the fire truck came to a line of cars "stopped dead" while it was "pouring down rain," and the fire truck hit the tanker while trying to swerve out of the way.
Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Griggs said 10 to 15 gallons of diesel fuel leaked onto the road, but none of the tanker's load spilled.
One of the fire truck's passengers was taken to the hospital with a minor lower-leg injury, and the other two were taken "because of the nature of the impact," Davis said.
Soon after, another wreck followed in which seven cars and two tractor-trailers piled up, also in the northbound lanes. Of the nine people involved in that wreck, four were taken to the hospital, Davis said.
As drivers looked at the carnage in the northbound lanes, several wrecks occurred in the southbound lanes. After traffic was diverted onto Interstate 64 eastbound, before the two interstates merge, there were some wrecks there as well, Davis said.
Davis said three of the accidents on I-75 were within a half-mile of each other.
"When you have a wreck like this, with no visibility, there is a chain reaction," Davis said.
Crews were sent to at least nine crash scenes related to the chain, Griggs said. He said 11 accidents had occurred on the interstate all day.
"It has certainly taxed us today, but we've been able to handle it," Griggs said.
Of those taken to hospitals, Davis and Griggs said, they had heard of no critical or serious injuries — just back and neck pain.
An accident earlier in the day, about 1 p.m., sent one person to the hospital. That wreck, on I-75 near mile marker 111, also was weather-related, Griggs said.
Showers and thunderstorms were severe at times, and 1.8 inches of rain was recorded between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday at Blue Grass Airport, according to the National Weather Service.
The strongest of the storms included lightning and gusting winds.
Saturday should be mostly sunny in Lexington, with a high close to 90. NASCAR racing fans in Sparta will see similar weather, with sunny skies and highs in the mid- to upper 80s.
Herald-Leader reporter Linda J. Johnson contributed to this story.