By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Law enforcement agencies and 911 dispatchers across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia stayed busy with crashes and blocked highways Thursday as a snowstorm dropped slick, wet snow on highways and secondary roads.
Rain gradually changed to snow as the storm front approached. By 1 p.m., Mercer County 911 started receiving multiple calls about crashes on local roadways including U.S. Route 460 and Interstate 77. Minor injuries were reported. Alerts were issued by local media concerning slick road conditions. By 1:30 p.m., increasingly slick conditions were reported in the vicinity of Crumpecker Hill on Route 460 near Princeton; by 2:40 p.m., tractor-trailers were stuck along both sides of the highway.
State troopers and deputies had to maneuver carefully while they answered calls concerning wrecks and vehicles stuck in roadside ditches. Information passed between officers and dispatchers in Mercer County about the safest routes to take as the road became more treacherous.
“They are snow covered right now,” Sgt. M.S. Haynes of the West Virginia State Police detachment near Princeton said of the local road conditions as of 1:55 p.m. “There have been five or six wrecks here in about half an hour. I don’t think any of them is too serious, but I’m not 100 percent sure about that. It’s not looking good out there right now.”
At the Virginia State Police detachment near Wytheville, Va., dispatchers were also handling many weather- related incidents.
“We’re very busy,” one dispatcher said between calls. Crashes were reported along I-77, but “nothing too serious,” she added.
Slick road conditions were reported along Route 52 but no accidents had been reported as of 2:25 p.m., according to a dispatcher with McDowell County 911. Road conditions continued to change as more snow fell.
“We’ve got few places that are covered. We’ve had just a couple of slides into a ditch and that’s about it,” another McDowell County dispatcher said at 4:15 p.m.
Minor “fender benders” occurred in Tazewell County, Va., in the early afternoon as roads became covered with snow. However, more crashes were reported on Route 460 and around the Tazewell, Va., area as the storm continued.
“They’re just everywhere,” a dispatcher said of all the wrecks. “People need to stay home.”
Traffic slowed throughout the region as the snow continued to fall. On Interstate 77, crashes caused by slippery pavement blocked the highway. Wrecks were stopping traffic at approximately 3:30 p.m. in the vicinities of mile marker 11 and mile marker 14 on I-77, Sgt. Haynes said.
Traffic gradually started to move soon afterwards, but problems continued as wreck scenes were cleared.
Crashes were being reported on the West Virginia Turnpike from Princeton to Ghent near the Mercer and Raleigh county line, according to Lt. D.A. Gunnoe at the state police turnpike detachment near Beckley.
“I’m not sure how many we have to be honest with you,” he said of the crashes. “There’s been a lot from Princeton on up to Ghent.”
Route 52 in Mercer County was extremely slick as of 4:45 p.m., according to a motorist who contacted the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Trucks were stuck in ditches near Bluefield State College. At the Route 123 and Route 52 intersection in Brushfork, motorists were stopping to help their fellow travelers when vehicles became stuck. People driving two-wheel drive vehicles appeared to be having the most trouble.
“Four-wheel dries seem to be doing well,” she noted.