Icy roads surprise drivers, road crews

COLUMBIA CITY — Motorists this morning may have began slipping even before they got behind the wheel of their vehicles.Paved surfaces everywhere, including driveways and sidewalks were covered with a thin layer of ice when local residents began their commute to work today.Schools in the county closed and road crews worked feverishly to put down material that would either melt the ice or at least give motorists some traction.Regardless of these efforts, slide-offs and traffic accidents were recorded throughout Whitley County and the surrounding communities.“Overnight we had a small patch of light drizzle in the wee hours of the morning and the temperatures were such that it froze immediately to the roads causing a glaze of ice,” said Michael Sabones, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service station in North Webster.“It was a situation where if the temperatures had been 10 degrees higher, it wouldn’t have been anything.”In Columbia City and other areas where National Serv-All provides trash pickup, the company announced this morning it would suspend all operations “due to extremely icy and unsafe road conditions.”The company announced it would resume pickup for the rest of the week “one day later than normal.” Wednesday work will be performed on Thursday. Thursday work on Friday, and Friday work on Saturday, according to a press release from the company.Around 6 a.m., the eastbound lane of U.S. 30 east of Pierceton was closed.All three county school systems — Smith-Green, Whitley County Consolidated and Whitko Community, were closed.Kelly Cearbaugh, Columbia City Street Department Superintendent, said his department received an early wake-up call.“We came in a couple hours early and started spreading material (sand/salt), basically on the intersections,” said Cearbaugh.“We’re assessing between the intersections to see if we’re getting any melting there. The highways were pretty bad this morning,” he said.Cearbaugh said his crews started out with three trucks this morning and by 8 a.m. had five trucks spreading material on roadways.At the county, Superintendent Michael Barton said about 14 trucks and several pickups were on county roads trying to give motorists some purchase on slippery surfaces.“The guys got started about 6 a.m.,” said Barton.“I know this happened about three or four this morning, but by the time we got the information, it was six before we could get out.”Barton said on his way to work this morning he noticed a state highway garage still closed.“It kind of caught them a little by surprise too, I think,” he said.“People were having a hard time getting to work this morning. When this kind of thing happens at three or four in the morning, you’re kind of caught,” he said.According to the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, there were six accidents in the county which appeared to be related to the weather starting at 5:16 a.m.That incident occurred at the Columbia City McDonalds.At 5:50 a.m., the county received a call on an accident at County Roads 600 North and 55 East.At 6:29 a.m., a slide-off was reported at state Route 14 and County Road 600 East.At 7:41 a.m., a slide-off was reported at state Route 5 and Lincolnway.At 7:51 a.m., a slide-off was reported at state routes 114 and 24 and at 8:02 a.m., a slide-off was reported at state Route 5 and County Road 1000 South.At 9:05 a.m. a slide-off was reported at state Route 114 and County Road 350 West.The Indiana State Police reported multiple incidents east of Whitley County.Fort Wayne police closed a stretch of northbound Interstate 69 from the 102-111 mile markers.According to an ISP press release, state police responded to a personal-injury crash at the 111 mile marker involving a semi tractor trailer.“I’ve been told that a Fort Wayne police car was hit while the officer was investigating a separate crash,” said ISP Public Information Officer Ron Galaviz.Galaviz added that numerous spots along Interstate 469 in both directions are closed by the Allen County Sheriff’s Department because of numerous jackknifed semi tractor trailers.The roadways in Allen County were reopened shortly after 9 a.m. this morning, according to Galaviz in a later press release.