Cars stuck in seven-hour standstill

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Monday, January 7, 2008
— Squad cars, ambulances and fire engines were the only vehicles moving through the thick, dreary fog along 5 miles of Interstate 90/39 on Sunday night.

For the hundreds not injured, the hardest thing was being patient during the scary, seven-hour standstill.

Drivers had no information from emergency personnel, who were busy helping injured people. Uninjured people whose cars were in the ditch were loaded onto busses and taken to a nearby hotel.

Everybody else paced, gossiped and complained.

College students recruited by emergency workers knocked on windows and tied yellow police tape on the cars without injured passengers.

Younger teens rolled by on skateboards and in-line skates. Mothers walked with toddlers and babies in strollers.

Dawn and Keith Nykamp of Madison and their children, Rowan, 2, and Jonas, 5, spent the morning driving from Michigan.

“We were 10 minutes from home after a five-hour drive,” Keith said, three hours into the wait.

Rowan and Jonas, bundled in coats and knit hats, ate Apple Jacks out of a box on the pavement behind the car.

A short walk was enough to show most drivers they had been very lucky. The worst crashes were near the intersection of Highway 12/18 and the northbound lane of I-90/39.

From that point south, cars and semitrailer trucks were scattered in the ditches for miles.

At 6 p.m.—three hours after the initial crash—smoke still billowed from one car, and the sky above the crash scene reflected the orange glow of tow truck lights.

In the northbound lane behind a green “hospital” sign, a semitrailer truck was jack-knifed in the ditch. An electronic sign blinked dimly, warning people in parked cars that lanes were blocked.

Just before 9 p.m., a Wisconsin State Patrol trooper started directing cars in the middle of the pile-up to turn around one at a time, cross over into the southbound lane and get onto County N to find their ways home.

Drivers crawled past flares and emergency workers digging through a snow bank to make a path for tow trucks.

The fog was like a brick wall between Stoughton and Edgerton, where it suddenly lifted.

Last updated: 2:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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