Saturday, July 26, 2014

Winter wallops area roadways

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 2/3/2014

The first distress call came in 2:53 p.m. Friday.

A vehicle driven by a 21-year-old De Soto man had lost control on the ice and crashed into a guardrail on I-35 near Wellsville.

The first distress call came in 2:53 p.m. Friday.

A vehicle driven by a 21-year-old De Soto man had lost control on the ice and crashed into a guardrail on I-35 near Wellsville.

Before the weekend was through, officers with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Ottawa Police Department would work 22 wrecks in the county that law enforcement agencies attributed to icy conditions from a storm that caught some motorists by surprise, especially a few out-of-state drivers passing through the area on I-35, where many of the wrecks occurred. Fifteen of the weekend’s crashes were recorded during a 2 1/2-hour period, from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Another half dozen crashes and rollovers occurred Saturday morning and one on Sunday attributed to a sheet of ice that left passenger cars, Jeeps, Dodge and Ford trucks and a jackknifed Freightliner tractor-trailer littered across highways and county roads.

With another wintry blast expected to blanket the region, local law enforcement and emergency management officials were urging residents who were thawing out from the icy conditions to be prepared for a new storm today.

With snow totals forecasted for eight to 10 inches in some areas, followed by gusty winds Wednesday that could cause snow drifts, Alan Radcliffe said people should prepare to be stuck in their homes for anywhere between 24 to 48 hours.

“With this storm, anything can happen,” Radcliffe, director of Franklin County Emergency Management, said. “We’re not expecting major power outages since there’s not supposed to be any ice with it, just snow Tuesday night, and Wednesday the winds are supposed to blow, which will cause drifting.”

No shelters are designated in the event of power outages, Radcliffe said, but they could be set up on an as-needed basis.

“If we have any life safety issues, I can open a shelter here in Ottawa, but if you can’t get to it, there’s no need to open it,” he said. “The main priority is life safety and making sure everybody is safe, but we’ve got a second priority to get roads cleared so emergency services can get up and down the roads.”

Motorists who must travel during the storm can call 511 to check road conditions anywhere in Kansas through the Kansas Department of Transportation. Motorists also can check the status of roads across the state on KDOT’s website, www.ksdot.org

With temperatures expected to remain below freezing throughout the storm, falling into the single digits overnight, residents need to be prepared for the sub-freezing weather if they venture out. Motorists should inspect their vehicles, checking tires and fluid levels, before leaving home, Capt. Adam Weingartner, with the Ottawa Police Department, said in a recent interview.

“Have an emergency kit in your vehicle, which should include items like hats, gloves, blankets and a flashlight,” Weingartner said. “You should also have a way to charge your cell phone, if you need to call for assistance. Call 911 immediately if you need help.”

Law enforcement officials urged motorists to be prepared and not be caught off-guard as some were by Friday’s ice storm. Fortunately, law enforcement officials said, the nearly two dozen wrecks in Franklin County caused by the icy conditions did not result in anyone suffering what were thought to be serious injuries, with most injuries minor in nature.

Ottawa firefighters with extrication equipment were called about 3:30 p.m. Friday to help Ottawa police officers free occupants of one vehicle that had flipped over on I-35 near Ottawa. A vehicle driven by Linda Greenburg, 69, Wichita, lost control on the ice and struck a guardrail, causing it to overturn in the median. Greenburg and her two passengers were transported to a local hospital with minor injuries, according to an Ottawa police report.

The police department worked two wrecks in town and two crashes on I-35 during that hectic period Friday afternoon. One wreck on I-35 involved three vehicles.

No one suffered serious injuries in any of the wrecks the police department responded to Friday, Weingartner said.

Herald staff writer Abby Eckel contributed to this article.

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