Saturday, February 03, 2001

Ice sends cars skidding

By Patrick Stack
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An Arctic cold front Friday sent temperatures plunging into the teens, glazing Greater Cincinnati roads with a slick veneer of ice during morning rush hour that caused more than 100 accidents and thousands of headaches.

        Cars slid off major highways, and traffic was occasionally at a standstill as temperatures reached as low as 12 degrees about 10 a.m.

        The Hamilton County Communications Center reported about 110 accidents from midnight through 2 p.m. Friday.

        Fender-benders were so numerous that some police began responding only to injury accidents.

        The crash of a state prison van on Interstate 71 in Madison County killed a 54-year-old guard from Warren Correctional Institution and injured two other officers and two inmates.

        On I-275 Friday morning, drivers stared out their win dows as traffic came to a halt. Allen Herrmann, 50, of Colerain Township, manager for a homebuilder, stopped at a gas station off I-275 near Cherry Grove at 10:45 a.m.

        He said a trip that normally takes him 25 minutes took 2 hours and 45 minutes. Mr. Herrmann stopped for an hour for breakfast, then got back on the highway to find the delay was just as bad.

        “If everybody wasn't rubbernecking, it wouldn't be that bad,” he said. “You've got a lot of cars off the road and people just looking.”

        “Of all days, we did not get one complaint today,” said Tim Schoch, deputy program manager for the regional traffic advisory system. “We had information on all systems, we had warnings on all the signs.”

        He said ARTIMIS, Advanced Regional Traffic Interactive Management and Information System, opened at 6 a.m. and officials immediately updated traffic signs, its 211 phone message and its Web site. Pictures of trouble spots were broadcast on television throughout the morning.

        “The conditions were very bad, and caused tremendous backups,” Mr. Schoch said. After about an inch of light snow started to fall at 4:30 a.m., temperatures dropped from the 30s into the teens as a cold front from western Canada moved in about 5:30 a.m., said Scott Hickman of the National Weather Service.

       Enquirer reporter Robert Anglen contributed.



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