Wrecks litter slick Triangle roads

Posted March 2, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Although state Department of Transportation crews began plowing snow and ice from roads early Monday, dozens of wrecks were reported across the Triangle during the morning commute.

"The roads are a little slushy in spots," WRAL traffic reporter Brian Shrader said. "You can get through it, but certainly, you want to stay home if you can."

State troopers handled about 135 wrecks in the Triangle between midnight and 11 a.m., said Capt. Everett Clendenin of the state Highway Patrol. Most were in Wake, Durham, Granville and Person counties, he said.

"We have been busy, but not nearly as busy as we were during that January snowstorm," Clendenin said, noting that few injuries have been reported in the wrecks. "So far, we've been lucky."

Raleigh police responded to about 25 wrecks Monday morning, while Durham police reponded to 45 wrecks, authorities said.

DOT salt truck clearing I-540 Snow falls, cars skid

At least one person was injured when a Triangle Transit bus and a Lay's potato chip truck were involved in a wreck on Interstate 540 near Creedmoor Road in north Raleigh. The chip truck wound up upside-down on an embankment off the highway, and the bus skidded across the median.

In northern Harnett County, a car rear-ended a school bus carrying 15 to 18 students from Harnett Central High School and Harnett Central Middle School that was stopped at a railroad crossing, authorities said. Five students were taken to Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital for treatment of minor injuries, authorities said.

The front of the car slid under the back of the bus. There was no word Monday morning on whether the car's driver was injured in the wreck.

Durham County deputies, Durham police and the Highway Patrol were handling numerous accidents on Interstate 40 and the Durham Freeway, but no serious injuries were reported in any of those.

Secondary roads were the biggest trouble spots, as moisture wasn't cleared from them as quickly as on major thoroughfares, Clendenin said. The resulting slush made these roads slicker than others, he said.

"People are just traveling too fast on these secondary roadways. They lose control in the curves or when they have to apply brakes to slow down for traffic. They're slipping and sliding around," he said.

Bridges and overpasses also remained slick Monday, he said.

With several inches of snow on the ground and more continuing to fall, Cary’s "Snow Fighters" started plowing main roads early Monday.

“Despite the great job our folks are doing with the plows, the roads are very slick, and we’re encouraging everyone to stay put this morning for as long as they can,” Public Works Director Mike Bajorek said in a release.

Officials said there were two storm-related traffic accidents in Cary, neither with serious injuries.

The crews were working to clear thoroughfares first followed by primary roads in subdivisions, then through-streets in subdivisions.

In Raleigh, crews were hitting major roadways, as well. On Sunday, 50 trucks and 2,400 tons of salt were on stand-by until snow started falling.

Two days worth of rain had soaked road surfaces, preventing crews from the standard practice of pre-treatment, said Daniel Kirsch, assistant streets supervisor for Raleigh's public works department.

Municipal and state crews usually lay down brine – a mixture of water and salt that prevents ice from bonding to pavement. They couldn't this weekend because the falling rain would simply wash it away.

Raleigh crews prioritize plowing to clear bridges first, followed by major roads and routes used by Capital Area Transit buses.

North Carolina Department of Transportation crews delayed pre-treating highways as well, department spokeswoman Dara Demi said. After snow started falling, state crews were to begin spreading salt on roadways.

The department issued a statement Sunday night advising drivers to limit travel as much as possible.

The Town of Chapel Hill applied salt and sand to primary routes, bridges, hills after snow began to fall. Town plows also started plowing snow from primary streets, officials said.

Clendenin said state troopers already were preparing Monday morning for the possibility of icy roads early Tuesday.

"It just depends on if the sun can come out (Monday) and the wind to dry these roads up," he said. "If we have the moisture on the roadways ... that moisture freezes overnight, and we going to have some problems in the morning (Tuesday)."

Most area counties were under winter weather advisories until 9 a.m. Tuesday because of the possibility of icy roads.

Tips for driving in winter weather

The North Carolina Highway Patrol offered these tips to help drivers navigate slick roads.

  • Clear your vehicle's windows and mirrors.
  • Reduce your speed. Driving at the regular speed limit will reduce your ability to control the car if you begin to slide.
  • Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles.
  • Bridges and overpasses accumulate ice first. Approach them with extreme caution, and do not apply your brakes while on the bridge.
  • If you do begin to slide, take your foot off the gas, and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not apply the brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car.
  • Come to a complete stop or yield the right-of-way at intersections where traffic lights are out. Treat this situation as a four-way stop.
  • If you have a cellular phone, take it with you. You can call the Highway Patrol statewide by dialing *HP (*47) or call the local county emergency center by dialing 911.

If you become trapped in your car

  • Pull off the highway; stay calm, and remain in your vehicle. At night, turn on the inside dome light, so work and rescue crews can see you.
  • Set your directional lights to "flashing," and hang a cloth or distress flag from the radio aerial or window. In a rural or wilderness area, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract attention of rescue crews who might be surveying the area by airplane.
  • Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter.
  • If you run the engine to keep warm, open a window slightly for ventilation. This will protect you from possible carbon-monoxide poisoning. Periodically, clear away snow from the exhaust pipe.
  • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers, and use your coat as a blanket.
  • Never let everyone in the car sleep at once. One person should stay awake to look out for rescue crews.
  • Be careful not to use battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – the use of lights, heat and radio – with your supply.

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  • stupiditydeservesnosympathy Mar 3, 2009

    I agree, can't stand it when people drive SUPER slow in the rain. I've lived in NC my whole life and it still drives me crazy. If you are going to go 5 miles per hour under the speed limit in a little bit of rain maybe you should consider public transportation.

    Per the DMV Driving Manual
    "Roads are dangerous just after the rain has begun to fall, especially if it has not rained for a while. For the first 10 to 15 minutes, the rain combines with oil from asphalt and cars, and with dirt, dust and rubber to create a slick surface. You should drive with extreme caution. Drive at least five to ten miles per hour slower on wet pavement than you would on dry pavement. You must also be prepared if your vehicle hydroplanes."

    ---Pirate Heist, Please go back to driver's Ed. Your mentality and lack of knowledge of correct driving is a danger to the rest of us. It's also the reason for so many accidents.

  • hpr641 Mar 2, 2009

    Also, clear off your HVAC air intake (especially if it's shaded). If it gets covered by snow, it's amazing how much efficiency it loses.

  • flyguync Mar 2, 2009

    I was driving in to work this afternoon on highway 64, nice and bone dry, and I come up on a guy in a pickup down in the snowy median against the wire talking on his cell phone. How in the heck do you manage that? Remember, the pavement was bone dry!!!

  • colliedave Mar 2, 2009

    looks as if the snow stimulated business for body shops

  • Z Man Mar 2, 2009

    Added my own perspective on the north/south diver thing but it got squashed by the moderators. Guess you can only say thing that THEY want others to hear. Like living in China!

  • Bob Sidel Mar 2, 2009

    "I always see people with northern license plates in wrecks and in ditches during our snowstorms"

    which state were the tags and where exactly were these wrecks?

  • Amused Mar 2, 2009

    I always see people with northern license plates in wrecks and in ditches during our snowstorms which almost always includes ICE, SLEET, SNOW!!! Not just snow.

  • 68_polara Mar 2, 2009

    What now SUV verses car thing? :-D

  • aspenstreet1717 Mar 2, 2009

    Always several expensive SUV's in the ditch. I wonder why that is?

  • 68_polara Mar 2, 2009

    Funny, the north vs south driving thing...