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Friday's icy weather led to wrecks, closures

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By Linda Ireland

 Freezing rain kept emergency crews busy Friday, beginning about 6 a.m. and lasting into the evening. Local roadways turned into a solid sheet of ice, closing schools, delaying court proceedings and causing headaches for anyone who had to be out on them.

State, county and city workers tried to keep up by spreading salt on the roadway but the slush was re-freezing as fast as it melted. A couple of salt trucks slid off the roadway.

City officers, sheriff’s deputies and constables stayed busy working accidents; volunteer firefighters helped with traffic control and extricating drivers from their cars. Wreckers ran non-stop.

Dispatch was flooded with calls about vehicles that had slid off the roadway or struck other vehicles or structures. The LaRue County 911 Center handled 48 calls for service – 21 accidents and three falls with injuries related to the weather, according to 911 Coordinator Chris Jackson.

Workers trying to arrive at the LaRue County Courthouse and City Hall faced an extremely icy hill. Even four-wheel-drive vehicles skidded and spun as they tried to gain traction up South Walters – or any city street with an incline, said Police Chief Steve Johnson.

Vehicles were sliding sideways into each other and plenty of other immobile objects – utility poles, fire hydrants and signs. Johnson’s cruiser got “hung up” four times and had to be pushed.

City officers worked about six wrecks, Johnson said. No injuries were reported.

“There was no ‘good’ place (to drive) in the city,” he said. “That misty rain came and made everything slicker." 

A few people abandoned their cars to slip and slide on foot.

The sheriff’s office worked about 20 wrecks, said Chief Deputy Russell McCoy. There were probably 20 more they couldn’t get to.

“We couldn’t make it to all of them due to the high number of calls,” said McCoy. “We had to triage depending on the seriousness of the crash.”

A couple of vehicles were abandoned in the middle of the roadway which made the slick roads more hazardous for others, McCoy said. They were eventually towed.

“I couldn’t even walk out there,” he said. “I had to crawl on my hands and knees to reach some of them.”

The most treacherous area appeared to be KY 84 between Hodgenville and Sonora. Interstate-65 was closed due to slick roads and traffic was re-routed through LaRue County. Many of the accidents involved drivers who were “passing through,” McCoy said.

At one point, a dozen vehicles slid off the roadway, lining the edge of KY 84. A state salt truck with chains on its tires was one of the casualties.

“One Vehicle Enforcement officer’s (cruiser) landed in a ditch on 84,” said McCoy. “He was trying to reach I-65 and assist with traffic control.”

“It was horrible,” he added. If I didn’t have a four-wheel drive, I’d have never made it.”

The road was closed for a couple of hours so the wrecks could be cleared and the state could spread salt. 

Several rollovers were reported in other areas of the county – but no injuries.

Susan Howard of Wright’s 210 Towing said their trucks were busy all day. In some instances, the tow truck couldn’t reach the area due to ice on the roadway.

“We couldn’t keep count of them,” she said. “Some people didn’t understand why there was a two-hour delay (in the tow truck reaching them) ... I’m glad it’s over with.”

I-65

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 4 in Elizabethtown closed Interstate 65 – both lanes – between Hart and Barren counties and restricted southbound access between Elizabethtown and Upton because of crashes.

According to Kentucky State Trooper Norman Chaffins, “a series of crashes and icy roads” closed a 20-mile stretch of I-65 about 5:30 a.m. after a jack-knifed tractor trailer and a passenger car merging into traffic caused about nine vehicles to be involved in three separate crashes near the 87-mile marker. 

There was an eight-car pileup in Upton.

“Three people were transported to Hardin Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries as a result,” Chaffins said. “Troopers worked diligently to get the roadway back open but the ice and stalled motorists prevented the wreckers from getting to the crash for several hours.”

Post 4 dispatchers and other staff fielded more than 875 phone calls for the area. On a typical day about 100 calls are taken. Troopers responded to 41 non-injury crashes, three injury crashes, 11 other collisions and assisted over 25 motorists stranded on roadways. 

“During inclement weather Post 4 encourages the public to continue to call us for emergencies or other needed incidents that require a Trooper to respond,” said Chaffins. “However, we suggest that they call 5-1-1 for updated road conditions instead of the KSP so that we may focus on getting emergency services to the needed areas."