A 1-2 punch by Mother Nature toppled trees and spread holiday brush fires across the Potomac Highlands, then socked Thanksgiving travelers coming home with fog and rain-slicked roads over the weekend.
Fire crews from several counties are working to contain a forest fire in Pendleton County.
And the fog and wet piled up cars on both I-68 and I-81.
The Dry Hollow fire sparked in the Monongahela National Forest of northern Pendleton County Thanksgiving morning, forcing the evacuation of hunters and one campground. Smoke Hole Road was closed until Monday.
Wind spread the fire quickly across 2,000 acres on both sides of the South Branch. Crews from the National Forest Service, West Virginia Division of Forestry and local fire companies battled to contain the fire.
By Monday evening, more than 500 acres had burned and the National Forest Service said the blaze was 60 percent contained, still covering 1,200 acres.
“We are relieved we finally got some moisture to help us with this fire,” Incident Commander Walt Walter said Monday. “Today, we reinforced fire lines and contingency lines around the fire, and we will continue to monitor the area for remaining fire activity.”
The Forest Service scaled back its crew to 15 people, relying on state and local firefighters to maintain the effort. The fire hasn’t damaged any structures and the cause is still unknown.
Rain soaked the Highlands Sunday, snow fell in higher elevations and fog rolled across roadways, all hampering homebound travels from Thanksgiving.
On Interstate 68 just west of Frostburg, 10 people were injured and 58 vehicles involved in a series of crashes on the fog-bound stretch of highway.
Maryland State Police said 29 chain-reaction crashes began around 12:35 p.m. on Big Savage Mountain on I-68’s westbound lanes. None of the injuries were life-threatening.
The highway was closed for 4 hours. Traffic was rerouted through Frostburg on U.S. 40.
Wrecks along I-81 and I-66 in Frederick County, Va., tied up Thanksgiving return traffic so badly Sunday that the annual Christmas Parade in Middletown was cancelled.
The Virginia Department of Transportation needed U.S. 11, the parade’s route through town, to divert traffic. The cancellation came 5 minutes before the 2 p.m. parade was set to step off on Main Street.