Icy bridges cause travel headaches

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Where there’s ice, there’s…..well, just a bunch of slipping and sliding.

Saturday proved as a tricky day on local roadways where a light rain, often falling to earth as a fine mist, froze as it made contact with surfaces that sat in sub-freezing temperatures. That led to slippery travel for some motorists, especially those using bridges on two major roadways in Hertford County.

Near Winton, the Thad Eure Bridge (US 13/158 spanning the Chowan River) turned into a skating rink and was briefly closed to traffic. Ditto for the Mayor Billy Hill Bridge (US 258) over the Meherrin River in Murfreesboro.

&uot;I watched as one of my officers simply took one hand and straightened out a pick-up truck that had spun sideways on the bridge on Saturday,&uot; said Murfreesboro Police Chief Darrell Rowe. &uot;The bridge was a sheet of ice and there was no way to control any type of vehicle that was in the process of crossing. Even a four-wheel drive vehicle didn’t stand a chance of not sliding sideways.&uot;

Compounding the problem is the fact that the bridge is built on an incline.

Rowe reported that he ordered the bridge closed for approximately 45 minutes until the Department of Transportation could respond with a truck to distribute salt and sand on the span. Towards the end of that waiting period, Rowe said there were about 50-60 vehicles waiting to cross the bridge from both directions.

&uot;It was completely impassable until DOT arrived with the salt and sand,&uot; noted the Chief.

Rowe added that all the accidents occurring on the bridge were of the &uot;fender-bender&uot; variety. There were no reports of serious injuries.

Meanwhile, motorists traveling north or south on US 13/158 encountered the same ordeal on the Thad Eure Bridge.

Hertford County EMS Director Charles Jones stated a series of accidents occurred Saturday on or near that Chowan River span.

&uot;We first had law enforcement officers stationed on each side of the bridge in an effort to slow down and warn the motorists of ice forming on the bridge,&uot; Jones said. &uot;It then got to a point where we had to close the bridge until DOT arrived with salt and sand.&uot;

Jones said the closure was brief, approximately 30-to-45 minutes.

&uot;I know it was an inconvenience, but it’s better to be safe than sorry,&uot; he stated.

Even with a layer of salt and sand, the high-rise bridge was still deemed a risk. That led to a short period of only opening the bridge to one lane of traffic for a short period. Motorists, under the direction of law enforcement, took turns crossing the span from both directions until the bridge was judged safe to pass over in a normal traffic flow.

Jones also reported icy bridges at Stoney Creek, located on US 13 south of Ahoskie. DOT workers also addressed that problem area.

A spokesperson with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol office in Ahoskie said that local troopers responded to 54 accidents last week in the three-county area (Bertie, Gates, Hertford). That figure was a total through Sunday night.

It was a strange weekend from a weather standpoint. While the brunt of a massive winter storm passed north of the local area – bringing over two-plus feet of snow in some areas of New York City and Boston – the R-C region experienced mostly rain and some reports of freezing rain. An extremely strange phenomenon occurred Saturday night where thunder and lightening was reported in the area.

Sunday proved as a day to stay inside. Sub-freezing air temperatures (the high struggled to reach the upper 20’s) accompanied by 20-to-25 mph winds pushed the wind chill down near zero.

The local weather will begin to improve this week with highs reaching the 50’s by tomorrow. However, it will be back in the 40’s later in the week with overnight lows in the 20’s.