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Ice storm slips up Mid-Missourians

Thin layer of ice yields surprising number of ER visits, traffic accidents

An early Christmas present for local salt truck drivers would be for streets and roads to not refreeze today.

Wednesday night through Thursday, crews dealt with an ice storm that could be best described as aggravating.

“It really was a minor storm, but it had a huge impact,” said Britt Smith, Jefferson City parking and street director. “That little thin layer made things extremely slick. Those streets that didn’t get much traffic were worse than those with a lot of traffic. It lulled drivers into a false sense of security.”

photo

Marc Haycook

A car failed to negotiate an icy intersection at North Larand and South Larand between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the Lake Mykee subdivision.

Smith said they have plenty of materials to work with.

“We did pre-treatment, which was unusual, around 2 and 3 p.m. trying to get ready for the evening rush hour,” he said. “What was put down may have been too light, but no one suspected it would be this bad judging from the forecasts we had for Wednesday.”

Smith said 10 city public works and police vehicles were involved in mostly minor accidents responding to calls Wednesday and Thursday. No injuries were reported.

“It was bad everywhere,” said Cole County Public Works Director Larry Benz. “We had one truck turn over, and two went into ditches on state routes. We had to put chains on most of trucks because it was so slippery.”

“I’ll take 16 inches of snow over this ice anytime,” Smith joked.

Traffic accidents

A Fulton woman and man died from injuries suffered in a car accident Wednesday night on Highway 54 just north of Fulton. Police said the accident happened at 6:50 p.m., shortly after freezing rain began falling in Mid-Missouri.

Jan K. Dunavant, 54, of Fulton was pronounced dead at the scene Wednesday night. Her father, 80-year-old Ralph D. Dunavant, was taken to University Hospital and died Thursday, according to hospital officials.

According to a news release from the Fulton Police Department, Ralph Dunavant was

driving a 2006 Chevy truck, which slid off the roadway and down an embankment. While sliding, the truck overturned.

Jan Dunavant was a long-time employee of the Fulton Public School District. She began working for the Central District Office in 1993 and spent the last 10 years as administrative assistant to the superintendent.

The accident was one of nine Fulton police responded to during the ice storm on Wednesday.

The emergency operations center in Callaway County also received 60-70 calls about accidents Wednesday night. But since the Highway Patrol responds to county accidents, Callaway County deputies were asked to help with only seven. Many of them were for cars sliding off the road.

In another weather-related incident, Interstate 70 in Callaway County was closed after two tractor-trailers ran off the slick road at approximately 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at mile marker 152 near Kingdom City. The incident did not result in any injuries.

The interstate was reopened Thursday morning.

Jefferson City police received 46 calls for accidents in the Jefferson City area — 21 of those warranted accident reports.

At one point Wednesday night, sections of three St. Louis-area interstate highways — 70, 44 and 55 — were closed because of numerous accidents.

Emergency room

visits were up

Because the roads and streets were so slippery, many people had to or felt they were better off trying to walk to their destinations.

But, in many cases, that was a mistake.

Local hospitals reported seeing a high number of cases of people who had fallen on the ice and were suffering from bruises, broken bones or even concussions.

Dr. Edmond Yabut at Capital Region Medical Center’s emergency room said that by 4 p.m. Thursday they had more than 40 cases of people who had fallen on the ice.

“We’ve had a lot of major issues like hip fractures, stuff that will ruin their holidays because it will require surgery to recover,” he said. “Over half we’re seeing are over 65. The younger patients are mostly suffering from bruises or minor fractures.”

Yabut said most of these falls occurred within a few steps outside of homes.

“In weather like this, people really need to put something on their steps and walkways for traction,” he said. “We had one lady who slipped and fell on her deck and another who fell in her driveway. If folks could either just stay in or take care of their surroundings, they would decrease their chances for something like this happening to them.”

Yabut said they believed the number of fall cases could go up to 60 or 70 as they went through Thursday night.

Capital Region got more cases mid-day Thursday when St. Mary’s Health Center had to go on diversion.

Mary Beth Henson, head registered nurse in the St. Mary’s emergency room said, “Diversion is when we’re at full capacity and our resources are stretched to the max for a short time. We got inundated with several ambulances and walk-ins involving people who had to wait to have their roads cleared to come in to get treatment.’

Henson said most of the cases they were getting were from areas east and north of Jefferson City.

“As of 4 p.m. we had 60 fall cases,” she said. “This is the most falls we’ve seen in quite a while.”

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