Wednesday morning’s commute to school and work turned freezing very quickly, resulting in dozens of accidents across the region.
By Ronni Newton
As meteorologists predicted the possibility of freezing rain on Wednesday morning, the timing and nature of the precipitation created a dangerous situation on the roads for anyone driving or walking early Wednesday morning.
“It was the perfect timing storm,” said West Hartford Director of Public Works John Phillips. Frozen precipitation only started in the region between 6.30 a.m. and 6.45 a.m., he said.
Phillips had called shifts early, and while there were people calling in sick, there were trucks dealing with the roads, but salting did not immediately solve the icing problem, he said. declared.
“Salt only works when it creates a brine, so there is a delay,” Phillips said. And the fine mist that freezes upon hitting the cold surface does not deliver enough liquid to be effective quickly.
Some drivers did not slow down enough for the conditions, causing accidents, which then led to traffic jams, and the situation quickly deteriorated.
“I don’t care if you have a tan Cadillac SUV… you can’t just go down the road when all the cars are stopped,” Sharona Kravitz said in a Facebook comment she shared with We-Ha.com, noting the lack of common sense shown by many drivers on Wednesday morning.
Many school buses, following their employer’s instructions to stop whenever they found themselves in an unsafe situation, decided not to take any chances and stopped where they were. “No one can bypass a bus,” said Phillips, noting that school buses are the worst type of vehicle in freezing conditions.
“Some of our trucks were stuck in traffic,” said Phillips, which delayed their ability to continue to salt the roads.
“Based on the information we had this morning, we made the decision to start on time,” West Hartford Schools Principal Tom Moore told We-Ha.com Wednesday morning.
“Weather and road conditions have changed rapidly and made conditions impractical in some areas. I take the safety of our children and staff seriously and I made the wrong decision. The fault of the decision is mine, I understand why people are angry and I hope everyone is well, ”he said.
“I drove my high school student from around 7:12 am,” resident Gillian Workman told We-Ha.com. She said she learned to drive in Minnesota and understood how to drive in wintery and icy conditions.
“Nonetheless, I was blinded by the ice it was,” Workman said. “I saw the first school bus pull up with the hazard warning lights on near the back entrance to the KP. I struggled to try Huron Hill but there were few cars and I caught up with it and was able to turn on [North Main Street]. On the way back I stayed [North Main Street] for safety reasons and while waiting for a fire behind two buses stranded on the side, the bus drivers were walking on the grass. I lowered my window. One of them stopped and said, be careful, it’s all ice cream. As I passed the buses, the front wheels of the first bus spun at an angle suggesting a sliding stop.
Lindsay Van Cleave lives on the corner of Webster Hill Boulevard and Westbrook. “I live on a curve and watched a truck slide out into an oncoming car,” she said in a Facebook comment she shared with We-Ha.com. “I then watched the oncoming police car slip into the crash. I thought the fire truck was going to join the heap. Wow. “
West Hartford Police had information of a damaged police car in the Webster Hill incident, but Sgt. Amanda Martin has confirmed there was an accident involving passenger vehicles at 30 Webster Hill Boulevard, one of at least a dozen incidents police responded to on Wednesday morning.
“So far we have responded to (12) accidents and no serious injuries have been reported,” Martin said in an email at 9:30 am.
Some roads had to be closed temporarily while tow trucks removed damaged vehicles, but no permanent road closures in town, Martin said. Traffic has slowed down at many intersections and at crash sites, she said.
Phillips said one of the worst situations was at the S-turns of Trout Brook Drive between Fern Street and Asylum, where traffic came to a complete stop amid the crashes. This has led to tie-ups on North Main and other alternative routes.
However, not all accidents were properly reported to the police. “Our car was hit during this morning’s ice storm and the driver left the scene in West Hartford,” a reader told We-Ha.com in an email. “People should report accidents to the West Hartford Police Department, or at least leave a note on the driver’s windshield. We recognize that if this accident is investigated, the driver could be accused of evading responsibility, which would create an even more serious problem for the driver, ”she said.
Nastajha Ortiz, who shared the above photo of a CT Transit bus that crashed into a fence at the corner of Steele Road and Fern Street, also reported seeing a school bus spinning down North Main Street and Brightview Drive at Bishops Corner around 7 a.m. : 20 am, causing a crash and traffic slowdown in the area.
Allison Rowlson, who lives and teaches in West Hartford, said when she left her home with her boys for school this morning: It really isn’t worth it. I called (my) school and told them I would be late, along with my college kid, and we waited about an hour before trying again.
They attended the school twice after school started, but unharmed, she said.
Patti Albee, administrator of the Neighbors and Friends in West Hartford Facebook page, launched a thread this morning on freezing conditions. It took her daughter over two hours to get to Hall. “Left home at 6:50 am, arrived at ASD around 7:10 / 15 am and stayed at the stop until approximately 7:45 am to arrive at Hall at 9:25 am. So about 1.5 hours on Main Street from ASD to Hall. (2 miles), ”Albee said.
By the time the precipitation started to fall and the roads began to freeze, it was too late to delay West Hartford Public Schools. Moore said, “Once the buses start running we can’t let the kids go to school and no one is there. Too many walkers, early landings to be able to delay once we get past 6:45 am, ”he told We-Ha.com.
“By 7:30 am all the arteries were finished,” said Phillips, and although the air stayed cold longer than expected, once the rain started to fall harder, the treatment started to work better. . “It takes time to melt the ice,” he said.
“Our buses are late this morning due to unexpected icing on the roads,” Deputy Superintendent Andy Morrow said in an emailed letter to families at West Hartford Public School just after 8:30 am. the rain change was rapid and was not expected to have this level of impact on our region. If we had known we would obviously have delayed our opening. The City has mobilized treatment trucks and continues to help as needed as we do our best to make it safe for everyone to get to school.
Northwest Catholic decided to delay the start of school until 9:50 am, but made the announcement around 9:00 am, about an hour after school started. “In the morning we had no idea it would be freezing rain,” said Elizabeth Figueroa, NWC communications director. Due to traffic, very few people had arrived by this time, she said, and those who were there stayed in their first period or counseling classes until the start of the official day.
As traffic stopped on North Main Street, the rumor that an NWC student crashed into a teacher was not true.
Multiple crashes dotted the area’s freeways, including one involving multiple vehicles on I-84.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation also noted in a tweet just after 10 a.m. the “perfect storm” of bad timing for Wednesday morning’s precipitation.
Freezing rain is not like snow and ice this event was a perfect storm: yesterday too cold to prepare liquid pretreatment and too windy before time to pretreat with hard salt. We are there through #CT. When you see us, give us room to work. ️ pic.twitter.com/ymYoiWXfH3
– Connecticut Department of Transportation (@CTDOTOfficial) January 5, 2022
“The remnants of a cold front lie just to the south, creating enough instability in the air to allow these small, light showers to kick in,” said John Lyons, who has become known for his accurate local weather forecasts. .
“Due to the proximity of this front, the air at altitude is milder than the air at the surface, so what fell as rain immediately froze as soon as it touched the ground,” said Lyons Wednesday morning. “Finally, the timing couldn’t have been worse as it hit with a little warning just before the morning drive. The alerts weren’t issued until around 3:45 am,” he said.
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