Police said traffic along Interstate 77 in southwest Virginia backed up for about 8 miles in the southbound lanes after the accidents. Authorities closed the northbound lanes so that fire trucks, ambulances and police could get to the series of chain-reaction wrecks.
Virginia State Police determined there were 17 separate crashes involving 95 vehicles within a mile span near the base of Fancy Gap Mountain, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. The crashes began around 1:15 p.m. Sunday when there was heavy fog in the area.
"This mountain is notorious for fog banks. They have advance signs warning people. But the problem is, people are seeing well and suddenly they're in a fog bank," said Glen Sage of the American Red Cross office in the town of Galax.
Since 1997, there have been at least six such pileups on the mountain but Sunday's crash was the most deadly, according to The Roanoke Times. Two people died in crashes involving dozens of vehicles in both 2000 and 2010.
Overhead message boards warned drivers since about 6 a.m. Sunday to slow down because of the severe fog, Geller said. The crashes were mostly caused by drivers going too fast for conditions.