Snow, rain cause several accidents
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Snow, rain and sleet caused headaches for motorists trying to make the morning commute in the Kanawha Valley.
Of the 1,927 calls emergency dispatchers fielded between 2 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday, they sent first responders to 1,284, said Kanawha County Manager Jennifer Sayre, who was manning the phones at the Emergency Operations Center.
Three additional dispatchers had been scheduled to deal with the center's increased call volume due to Halloween activity, said Denise Clark, Metro 911 deputy director of operations.
They fielded calls about road conditions and trees felled by heavy snow, not pranksters.
Clark said the calls peaked between 6 and 9 a.m., when dispatchers were receiving about 120 per hour.
John Rutherford, interim director of Metro Communications, said dispatchers also were making calls to utility companies and the Division of Highways to tell them of downed lines and trees.
"It's been going pretty steady," Clark said. "We had a peak a little earlier from 6 to 9; that's when we had the most calls, but now it's starting to level off."
Dispatchers reported 64 crashes, 31 with injuries. No fatalities were reported Tuesday.
"It's everywhere," one dispatcher said early Tuesday.
By 8:30 a.m., a vehicle was in the ditch at Lens Creek and another crash was reported at Cedar Grove. More wrecks followed throughout the morning in various areas of Kanawha County.
A car caught fire near the Oakwood Road exit, but the scene was cleared and no one was injured.
Emergency crews closed the northbound lanes of Interstate 77 starting at exit 106 near Edens Fork after a tractor-trailer carrying lumber jackknifed near exit 111. Nobody was hurt in the 8:14 a.m. crash, a dispatcher said.
A spokesman for the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department said that section of the interstate was closed to keep traffic from sliding into the wreckage. The section reopened just before 10 a.m.
Dispatchers also received 58 reports of downed lines and 45 reports of felled trees. Clark said the lines and trees were down all over the county, not specific to any certain area.
"This snow is heavy and wet, and it's weighing the trees down," Clark said.
Rutherford said the roads were "pure ice" at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Clark said it would help dispatchers and first responders if motorists would avoid travel in such nasty weather.
Drivers were avoiding roads for the most part in Boone and Fayette counties, dispatchers said.
Michael Mayhorn, Boone County emergency dispatcher, said traffic, what little there was, was moving smoothly Tuesday afternoon.
"The roads here in Madison and Danville are pretty much cleared now," he said. "We've had several wrecks on (U.S.) 119."
He said eight vehicle crashes were reported between 4 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday.
In Fayette County, which received up to 2 feet of snow, many roads were impassable, but only three incidents were reported, a dispatcher said. All were vehicles "spinning out" and needing to be pulled back onto the road.
He said Fayetteville, Pax and Mount Hope were hit hard in the storm. Fayetteville had 15 inches of snow as of Tuesday morning and was still accumulating Tuesday evening, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.
The dispatcher said a co-worker who lives in Pax could not make it out of her driveway because of downed trees. She spent the day cutting up trees with her family.
"Things seem to have calmed down now," the dispatcher said. "But it is still snowing."
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.