Drivers, Road Crews Caught Off Guard By Thursday Glaze

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Friday, January 25, 2013

A slippery surprise on the road caught Wichita drivers and transportation workers off guard Thursday night.

What a difference 22 hours makes. All is now well on the streets and highways, but road crews and drivers alike were surprised Thursday night with a slippery glaze.

Wichita-area motorists collectively said “surprise, surprise” or “yikes” to an ever-so-thin glaze of ice on the roads. It was just enough to cause several accidents in the metro area, forcing some ramps to close.

"We were a little surprised and had our crews called out about 7:30 and pulled more people out about 9:30 and, in fact, some stayed out all night," said Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Hein.

Hein says that wasn’t in their plans and that the weather service they use was not forecasting the ice. All it took was a slight mist in the air and the freezing temps to make roads hazardous.

"There were a lot of accidents,” he said. “There were slide-offs, rollovers, so there were a lot of problems with it. It caught people unaware, and it caught us a little bit unaware."

He says KDOT typically pre-treats with brine when they have enough advance warning. All that could be done was use a sand and salt mixture on some roads after the freeze.

"We were a little surprised, as I think most people were," Hein said.

They weren’t alone. Sedgwick County and the city of Wichita didn’t pre-treat streets and roads either. One city officer says this is what happens with such a slight chance of ice—a thin glaze at that—predicted, calling it a nuisance. But it’s nice now.

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