Weather blamed for 22 accidentsPublished 7:12pm Saturday, January 26, 2013
Icy roads caused by snow, sleet and frigid temperatures caused 22 car accidents across Beaufort County on Friday night, according to Emergency Management Services Coordinator John Pack.
Pack, with county first responders and N.C.D.O.T. workers, pulled an all-nighter Friday night, responding to accident scenes and battling the buildup of ice on the roads.
“A lot of first responders got wet and cold. … But we were very blessed — we had no fatalities and in a lot of the accidents, there were no significant injuries,” Pack said. “I think we held up well overall.”
Pack said the accidents were not concentrated in certain areas, but were spread across the county — several at bridges with box culverts and places where the limbs of large trees overhang roadways. At one point, D.O.T. workers closed the U.S. Highway 17 Bypass in order to treat the highway with salt and sand, Pack said.
“People should stay away from (the overpass) in those conditions,” Pack advised. “The reality is, it sits way up there and the wind blowing beneath it will make it freeze.”
When Pack left the Emergency Operations Center at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, no power outages had been reported in the county. Maj. Kenneth Watson said Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to 10 accidents. Most in the City of Washington stayed home, according to Lt. William Chrismon, spokesman for Washington Police.
Pack said planning was what he felt kept the number of accidents to a minimum.
Two days prior to the storm, he emailed county officials and Beaufort County Schools superintendent Don Phipps to give them a heads up and orchestrate a plan to keep as few people on the roads as possible once a certain hour came and the storm, and ice, moved in. Schools and county offices let out early and Pack sent out a message to the public to stay off the roads as much as possible.
“Eventually, that’s what occurred because the accidents stopped at about 2:30 in the morning,” Pack said.
The freezing rain and sleet closed schools and caused hundreds of wrecks Friday across the state, according to The Associated Press. In Charlotte, police responded to dozens of calls of cars overturned, with similar problems being reported in Asheville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh. Traffic on Interstate 95 slowed to a standstill because of numerous wrecks and crews trying to get salt and sand down.
Most areas reported a coating of ice a tenth of an inch or less on railings, power lines and limbs, according to the National Weather Service.
As of Saturday afternoon, D.O.T. crews were still seeking out problem spots on Beaufort County roadways. Pack warned of the dangers of black ice, even if the worst of the weather has passed.
“Anywhere there’s a wet road, there’s the potential for black ice,” Pack explained. “Ice is the great equalizer — people can’t walk on it, machines don’t do well on it.”