Winter Weather Causes Accidents, Busy Thursday For TPD

By: Nick Viviani / Sarah Plake
By: Nick Viviani / Sarah Plake
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The return of winter weather led to dangerous conditions on northeast Kansas roads and knocked out power for hundreds across the region.

While it wasn't snowing, icy roads had Topeka officials urging drivers to take extra precautions as freezing rain passed through.

The Topeka Police Department was placed into inclement weather accident phase reporting Thursday evening. TPD would only dispatch to accidents involving injury, disabled vehicles and hit-and-runs.

TPD's weather release read: "Roads in the city are currently passable, however virtually all of the bridges in Shawnee County are experiencing icy conditions and this had led to a number of accidents. The public is urged to stay home, and if they must be out on the roads to use caution. Roads and bridges may be icy and slick."

Crews started early, treating bridges and overpasses with de-icer. Despite their efforts though, a string of wrecks and slide-offs on the Oakland Expressway forced officials the bridge shortly after 8:00 p.m.

Elsewhere, a woman was sent to the hospital after she was struck by an SUV near Gage Blvd. and 29th Terrace. That incident temporarily shut down both northbound lanes of Gage Blvd.

By approximately 10:00 p.m., Westar Energy reported just over 100 customers were without power.

Director of Street Management for Topeka Ron Raines said the department has been preparing for the storm since Monday.

Crews were out practicing maneuvering and doing maintenance checks on its plow trucks.

Both the city and county public works department were hesitant to treat the roads while it was still raining because the precipitation would just wash it all away.

"Whenever you have rain before ice or snow it's very difficult to prepare the roadways because if you pre-treat, the rain will wash it away so it makes it essentially ineffective," Director of County Public Works Tom Vlach said.

However, because bridges and overpasses are the first to freeze over, the city decided to treat those Thursday evening.

"We're hoping the precipitation quits and the wind kicks up and will dry the roads pretty quickly and if that occurs there'll be no problem," Raines said. "If the precipitation continues to come down over the next two hours we can increase our manpower [and] our vehicles on the street pretty quickly and we can bring those up to speed as we feel necessary."

Vlach said icy roads and freezing rain is the hardest type of storm to treat, and urged motorists to drive carefully.


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