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Pennsylvania turnpike reopened after Thursday's 35-vehicle icy pileup

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The Pennsylvania Turnpike through Reading was reopened last night after ice and snow-covered roads caused a major 35-vehicle pileup the day after Christmas, reports CBS News on Dec. 27.

The eastern Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 78 had been shut down for hours as crews cleared the chain-reaction stack of vehicles that were ensnared because of the slippery conditions.

Pennsylvania Turnpike officials say the crash completely blocked the westbound lanes and caused a 4-mile backup between the Morgantown and Reading exits.

Turnpike spokeswoman Renee Colborn said the highway reopened at 5 p.m. yesterday. A total of 25 people were transported to Reading Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center or Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown. Dozens more were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

"It was a mess, a total mess," said Tim Behm, deputy chief of Kutztown Fire Company No. 1. "We were dealing with two different pileups… At one point, there were 13 people trapped in their cars.”

Two people remain in critical condition, investigators say.

State police are looking into how the crash initially started, said State Trooper Kevin Rathman.

"We will break the pile-up into groups so it's not just one big wreck," Rathman said. From there, Rathman said "officers will determine if there are drivers who could be cited."

Thursday's forecast called only for a passing snow shower during the day, so many motorists were caught off-guard by the intensity and duration of the heavy snowfall.

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