Storm creates midvalley ‘mayhem’
A fast-moving blizzard dumped snow quicker than plows could clear it in the midvalley yesterday morning, bringing the morning commute to a near standstill on Highway 82 and causing numerous minor wrecks.”I can sum it up – the conditions are crappy,” said Basalt Police Officer Brooke Bishop, after she and other officers responded to numerous traffic accidents for about three hours.”It was unusually intense,” Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda said of the storm.The wet snow started falling around 7:30 a.m. and was blown so hard that it stuck to traffic signals in Basalt and El Jebel. Bishop said vehicles were going through red lights that were almost impossible to see.Cops from Basalt, Eagle and Pitkin counties, and the Colorado State Patrol responded to an estimated 12 accidents in the midvalley.”It was just a bunch of mayhem,” said Jerry Peetz, operations director for the Basalt Fire Department, which was called to two of the worst accidents.Disaster was avoided when a Saturn sedan rolled down a 40-foot embankment and landed on its top in the Fryingpan River about two miles east of Basalt, according to authorities. The lone occupant was able to get herself out of the car and escape uninjured, according to Peetz. “The lady is very fortunate,” he said.A Basalt crew was also called to a two-car, head-on collision at Upper Willits Lane and Highway 82, but there were no injuries, Peetz said. In a separate accident, a westbound car lost control in front of Lazy Glen, traveled into the eastbound lanes and hit two oncoming cars, according to Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Sheriff Jim Hearn. No one was hurt, he said.Steve Poyner, a truck driver for Intermountain Distributing of New Castle, said he encountered whiteout conditions near Carbondale at about 7:30 a.m. “Everybody was going about 25 miles per hour or slower,” he said.The snow came down so hard that crews from the Colorado Department of Transportation couldn’t keep the roads clear – even with six trucks with plows working on Highway 82, according to spokeswoman Nancy Shanks. Crews estimated snow was accumulating as fast as 2 inches an hour. The highway had about 5 inches of snow on it at one point.CDOT had two drivers from the graveyard shift and three drivers who were coming on duty plowing the roads, according to D’Wayne Gaymon, the maintenance supervisor for the area that includes the Roaring Fork Valley. He also pulled a plow off Highway 133 to help on Highway 82.”I don’t think we could have had enough trucks to stay ahead of this storm,” Gaymon said in a statement through Shanks. “It was accumulating faster then we could clear it for a while.”The roads were cleared by 10:30 a.m., after the storm passed, and roads were dry by early afternoon.Scott Condon’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
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