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Wednesday, January 02, 2013 8:16 PM

Storm wallops area with more wrecks, cleanup

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer

This week’s winter storm proved less eventful than its predecessor, officials said, but it wasn’t necessarily easier to deal with. 

The steady New Year’s Eve snowfall, which continued into the first day of 2013, accumulated about 1 inch, according to the Ottawa Water Treatment Plant. Despite the small amount of snow, local emergency responders still were kept busy. 

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office responded to several incidents and vehicle slide-offs, as well as a few more serious wrecks, Jerrod Fredricks, master deputy with the sheriff’s office, said. 

“On Monday, there was not as many [wrecks] until after dark,” Fredricks said Wednesday. “We felt like during the daytime, obviously because of the warmer temperatures, the streets were pretty dry.

“Along with that, we had a lot of the crews out working that did a great job of cleaning the roads,” he said. “But after dark and the re-freeze, that was when we started to have problems.”  

About 20 slide-offs were reported throughout the county, Fredricks said. Four more serious weather-related wrecks also were tallied Monday and Tuesday.

Kelly Layton, 34, Baldwin City, was transported to Ransom Memorial Hospital with possible head injuries after the vehicle she was riding in hit a slick spot on Old U.S. 59 and rolled into the ditch at about 10 p.m. Monday, according to law enforcement reports. Layton, who was riding with her two children and husband, Robert, was treated and released Monday night, according to hospital officials. 

Weather conditions also were reported as the cause in three other non-injury wrecks in the county, including a two-vehicle wreck on U.S. 59 and a single-vehicle wreck in the 2400 block of Eisenhower Road, southwest of Ottawa. The vehicles each reportedly suffered more than $1,000 in damage. 

Despite the wrecks, Fredricks said, he thought authorities handled the wintry weather well. 

“We knew that it was coming and I think we were pretty well prepared and handled it very nicely,” he said. 

Crews from both the county, and the city were out Monday and Tuesday to ensure the roadways were safe for motorists.

City crews were out Monday night for about five hours starting at about 8 p.m., Andy Haney, the city’s public works director, said. The materials, a salt and rock chip mixture, weren’t as effective, he said, until after the pavement temperature dropped. 

“It didn’t get ugly during the day because the pavement temperatures were up and the roads stayed pretty clear, unlike the time before, but it did get slick [Monday] evening,” Haney said. “We had been putting out material during the day to try and stay ahead of it, but when the temperatures dropped in the evening, it got slick so the guys had to be out for about four to five hours.”

County crews worked more than 20 hours, spreading about 35 loads salt and sand mixture on the county’s roads, Jeff Welton, the county’s roads superintendent, said. 

“We worked a 10-hour shift on Monday, then we had that lull and then we had another 12-hour shift on Tuesday,” Welton said Wednesday. “Today we’re still out treating and hitting some of the spots that didn’t melt off or were shaded.”

No major issues were reported with the process, which involved pre-treating bridges, overpasses and intersections, Welton said. 

“We had some freeze-back in several of the locations, but for the most part, I think it went pretty well,” he said. 

Capt. Adam Weingartner, with the Ottawa Police Department, said this week’s winter weather event presented significantly fewer incidents than the previous storm the week before Christmas. 

“We didn’t have many problems with it,” Weingartner said. 

Two non-injury wrecks involving the weather were reported, Weingartner said. In the 300 block of West Keokuk Street, James Finch, 18, Ottawa, lost control of his vehicle and struck a vehicle driven by Wendi Weekly, 41, Olathe. A second incident involved a hit-and-run wreck in the 600 block of North Mulberry Street. The unknown driver of a vehicle reportedly hit three parked vehicles and then fled the scene on foot about 10:17 p.m. Monday. Officers were following up Wednesday to identify the driver of the vehicle, Weingartner said.

The snow dropped on the area isn’t expected to melt for a couple of days as temperatures are forecast to stay in the low- to mid-30s. The extended forecast shows a chance for rain later in the week, with temperatures climbing into the low-50s. No chance of snow is forecast for the rest of January.

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