At 6:08 p.m. on Saturday, August 17, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol responded to the report of multiple vehicles involved in crashes along I-40/85 east and west in Mebane near mile marker 158 in Orange County, to the immediate east of the Buckhorn Road (Exit 157) freeway corridor. It is unclear as to what initially caused this series of crashes; however, the crash location was experiencing heavy rain at the time.
The first series of crashes occurred on the westbound side. The second series occurred on the eastbound side. Approximately 45 to 50 vehicles were involved on both sides of the freeway. At this time, one serious injury was reported, and several minor injuries were reported. Both directions of I-40/85 were closed until 8:35 p.m..
Travelers moving along I-40/I-85 Saturday evening were met with significant delays of an hour to 90 minutes or more trying to navigate through the series of crashes on both sides of the road. All four of the lanes along I-85 South/I-40 West were blocked for a time until enough first responders could get to the scene to clear up a couple lanes.
As the packed cars sat on the freeway, a collection of tow trucks, emergency vehicles, N.C. Highway Patrol and Mebane Police vehicles worked through the congestion along the shoulder of the freeway in order to make it to the scene.
At the scene of the crashes, a line of cars - most of them with smashed fronts or backs - could be seen lined up along the interior shoulder, near the concrete dividing barrier between the two directions.
Numerous drivers and passengers who had been involved in the series of crashes were temporarily displaced to the nearby Weigh Station, which is normally utilized by tractor-trailers as they travel up and down along the interstate.
Some were sitting together in portable chairs, recalling the incident. Others were calling loved ones on their cell phones. The large number of tow trucks participating in the cleanup were transporting some of the more heavily-damaged vehicles off the freeway and to the nearby Weigh Station to temporarily get them off the road and out of the way of the tied-up traffic.
The crashes and subsequent traffic jam made national news, featured on Sunday morning programs such as ABC’s “Good Morning America.”