Police vehicle involved in I-81 crash in Berkeley Co.

January 27, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

A West Virginia State Police sport utility vehicle was hit from behind while pulled off to the side of Interstate 81 Monday morning, one of many accidents that happened on snowy roads.

Six to 7 inches of snow fell across the Eastern Panhandle, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Luis Rosa.

Sgt. Deke Walker said Monday afternoon that troopers worked many accidents involving vehicles running off the road, but no serious injuries had been reported.

The accident involving the trooper happened after Sgt. Dean Olack pulled his marked 1997 Ford Expedition mostly into the median of Interstate 81 to investigate a crash involving a car that had flipped onto its roof.


As Olack and the driver of the car that flipped, who was not injured, sat in the SUV, it was hit from behind by Miguel A. Saez, 26. Saez, driving a 14-foot U-Haul truck, was moving from Pennsylvania to Charlotte, N.C., Walker said.

Saez was not able to stop in time, Walker said. He said the SUV's bar lights were on.

Nobody was injured, but Walker said damage to the SUV was estimated to be around $1,000. It could be driven from the site, he said.

Saez was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision.

Danny Clark, county administrator for the Division of Highways, said crews were working 12-hour shifts to clear the roads. By the afternoon they had mostly cleared the county's primary roads and had moved on to secondary roads.

Low temperatures hindered their efforts.

Because temperatures remained below 32 degrees, snow stuck to the cold blacktop. Chemicals can only penetrate so far, Clark said.

"We're doing the best we can," he said.

He advised those still shoveling driveways this morning not to throw or plow the snow onto the road. They could be held liable should an accident occur, Clark said.

He also advised people who don't have to go out to stay home.

Chief Deputy Kenneth Lemaster of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department said school closings and event postponements helped keep people off the roads. Schools in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties were closed Monday.

As nighttime approached and nearly imperceptible flurries fell within the city of Martinsburg, a large bulldozer was scooping up snow along King Street and dumping it into a truck. Clearing King and Queen streets takes priority when the city's snow emergency plan goes into effect, as it did Monday morning, said Cpl. Terry Stanley with the Martinsburg Police Department.

In Jefferson County, officials were making arrangements to get the snow out of the towns.

In Charles Town, W.Va., officials planned to close George and Washington streets to parking starting at 5 p.m. Monday to give crews time to remove snow from the streets and haul it out of town in dump trucks, said 1st Lt. Mark Johnston of the Charles Town Police Department.

Shepherdstown, W.Va., officials were also planning to load snow into dump trucks and move it out of the shopping area, said Shepherdstown Police Chief Charles Cole.

"Our streets are horrible," Cole said.

When snowplows began clearing streets in Shepherdstown, they were restricted because of cars parked along the streets, Cole said. Many people were getting stuck in parking places Monday due to large amounts of snow being pushed to sides of streets.

In Harpers Ferry, there were some water line breaks due to the cold but repair crews were able to correct the problems quickly, an employee at the Harpers Ferry Police Department said.

In Franklin County, Pa., Waynesboro was blanketed with 5 1/2 inches of snow Saturday and received another 6 inches Sunday night and Monday morning, said weather watcher and Waynesboro Area Senior High School science teacher Todd Toth.

In Chambersburg, Pa., 3.1 inches fell Saturday, followed by 6.7 inches on Sunday, weather observer Jerry Ashway said.

"I think they're calling for a mixture tonight" that could include snow and sleet, said Bill McDowell, an assistant maintenance manager with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation office in Chambersburg.

McDowell said most crews hit the roads early Monday morning in an attempt to get the major arteries cleared before rush hour. The department had 43 trucks working on state roads in the county, he said.

A few crews were out Monday afternoon working on Interstate 81, mountain roads and some other trouble spots, McDowell said. Crews would be back on the job at 4 this morning to clear up anything that accumulates overnight, he said.

Pennsylvania State Police in Franklin County attributed one serious accident to poor road conditions Sunday, although it occurred before the snowfall Sunday evening.

Joshua E. Chung, 18, of Mercersburg, Pa., was in fair condition Monday at Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center. He was injured in a 3:33 p.m. accident on Corner Road in Montgomery Township when he lost control of a 1987 Dodge Aries on the snow and struck a utility pole, police said.

State police responded to about a dozen other accidents, most of which involved either minor injuries or no injuries, according to the reports.

Staff writers Don Aines and Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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