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Published: Saturday, 12/27/2008

Icy roadways cause havoc for motorists

BY MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Extremely icy roads brought traffic in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan to a near standstill yesterday morning and may have played a role in at least one death.

"It's sheer ice from Toledo to Bowling Green," Brian Gettinger, a dispatcher at the Ohio Highway Patrol's Toledo post, said during the height of the region's latest batch of freezing rain, which coated previous snow and ice on sidewalks, driveways, and side streets with a fresh, slippery glaze.

Much warmer air moved into the region overnight, bringing with it the another traffic hazard. The National Weather Service last night posted dense-fog advisories for northwest and central Ohio, lower Michigan, and most of Indiana.

In Fulton County, a 23-year-old woman was killed yesterday morning after she lost control of her car on State Rt. 108, crossed the center line, and struck an oncoming vehicle, the Ohio Highway Patrol said.

Jennifer Johnston of Wauseon was taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, where she was pronounced dead, troopers at the patrol's Toledo post said.

Ms. Johnston was northbound on State Rt. 108, north of County Road H, about 7:50 a.m. when she lost control and went left of center, striking a vehicle driven by Emily Johnson, 16, of Fayette, troopers said.

The Johnson youth was taken to Fulton County Health Center with minor injuries, troopers said.

While the state patrol's report made no mention of road conditions, Fulton County was under a Level 1 winter travel advisory at the time.

Dave Martin and Troy Gable of L and S Roofing remove a part falling from a crosswalk on Summit Street in Toledo. Dave Martin and Troy Gable of L and S Roofing remove a part falling from a crosswalk on Summit Street in Toledo.
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Icy pavement was listed as a factor in a noontime crash in Erie County near Castalia yesterday that seriously injured a Clyde man, the patrol said.

Michael McLachlan, 29, was taken to Bellevue Hospital, then flown to the University of Toledo Medical Center - formerly Medical College of Ohio Hospitals - after losing control while rounding a curve on State Rt. 101 and crashing into a ditch. The hospital had no information about his condition last night.

Mr. McLachlan's vehicle overturned and came to rest on its top, troopers said. A passenger,

Rebecca McLachlan, 25, was not hurt. Both driver and passenger wore seat belts, troopers said. Route 101 was closed near Herr Road for about an hour.

Theresa Pollick, a spokesman at the Ohio Department of Transportation's district office in Bowling Green, said salt-truck crews had been on duty since Thursday night, but Mother Nature simply overmatched them.

"Ice is absolutely the worst-case scenario that our crews have to deal with because it doesn't take a lot to cause major problems," Ms. Pollick said. "In this case, ice spread very quickly and it was difficult for us to keep up with the weather."

In Oregon, trash collection was suspended at 1:30 p.m. yesterday because of icy side streets. City officials said Waste Management trucks would complete unfinished pickups today and Monday.

While not formally suspending refuse service, Toledo officials cautioned that some trash and recycling pickups scheduled for yesterday might be delayed until today.

They also urged citizens to check street drains near their homes and clear them if necessary, to prevent local street flooding as snow and ice melted overnight and today.

By this afternoon, much of the ice is likely to be gone, as warm winds in advance of another approaching storm are expected to pump Toledo-area temperatures into the 50s and possibly the lower 60s. The Toledo record high for Dec. 27 is 60 degrees, set in 1971.

But warmer air will offer little consolation to those involved in ice-related crashes yesterday.

About a dozen accidents, mostly between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., tied up traffic on icy I-75 between Toledo and Bowling Green. None of the accidents caused serious injury, Mr. Gettinger said.

In Toledo, authorities closed both sides of I-75 between Alexis Road and South Avenue during the morning because of multiple-vehicle accidents, slowed traffic, and icy conditions. The wrecks included a seven-car chain-reaction crash at Phillips Avenue about 8:25 a.m. and a 10-car pileup about 8:40 a.m. northbound at the Collingwood Avenue entrance.

A Toledo police officer responding to the Collingwood crash was injured when another motorist lost control on the freeway's icy pavement and struck a patrol car from behind.

Officer Sandra Lubinski, 56, was treated at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

Aprille Schutte, 26, of 1005 Elm Tree Rd. was cited for failure to control. Police said she lost control and slid sideways into the back of the police car. Ms. Schutte was not injured, and Officer Bruce Cramer, 51, the patrol car's driver, reported stiffness after the crash but wasn't treated.

Another motorist became disoriented after being involved in a crash on northbound I-75 near the Downtown Toledo exit and caused yet another chain-reaction collision, police said.

Phyllis Brock, 89, of 519 Sioux Trail, Rossford, was cited for failure to control after her vehicle rear-ended a car driven by Brian Hughes, 51, of 533 Woodland Dr., Rossford.

Ms. Brock's car was struck from behind by a third vehicle. She then drove around "in a confused state," the report said, and began heading west across I-75's northbound lanes, triggering another crash involving her car and four other vehicles.

Police Chief Mike Navarre said his department was overwhelmed with accidents yesterday, prompting him to put detectives, lieutenants, and even one of his deputy chiefs out on the streets responding to calls.

Although the chief could have called extra officers in on overtime, he said the need was immediate.

Chief Navarre said with detectives and command officers on the streets answering calls, it freed up patrol officers to respond to traffic accidents. Despite the volume of accidents, many involving multiple vehicles, he said response times weren't impacted, he said.

Officers tried to clear freeway crashes quickly by urging drivers to exchange insurance information and then file accident reports at a district police station, the chief said.

David Welch, commissioner of Toledo's division of streets, bridges, and harbor, said the city had most of its salt trucks working the streets by about noon Friday.

"With surface temperature in the mid-20s, any rain that hits the roads turns to ice. That's why we have most of our crews out," Mr. Welch said.

In Maumee, the northbound Anthony Wayne Trail was blocked at Key Street for several hours by an injury crash at 10:30 a.m.

The Ohio Highway Patrol reported several instances of vehicles sliding off the Ohio Turnpike between Toledo and Fremont between about 8:15 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. None of those accidents involved serious injuries, said troopers at the patrol's Berea post.

And on U.S. 23 in Monroe County, at least three accidents disrupted traffic before 10:45 a.m. None involved any serious injuries, the Michigan State Police said.

The fog that developed was the product of warm air passing over ice and snow on the ground. Rain showers were forecast for today, especially after 4 p.m., while cooler and windier weather was expected to return tomorrow with rain or snow showers in the morning.

Blade staff writers Laren Weber and David Patch contributed to this report.

Contact Mike Sigov at:

sigov@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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