Busy Day for Emergency Responders
Ascutney — The one-two punch of drenching rain and dropping temperatures sent Upper Valley motorists slipping across ice-slicked roads Monday, when both interstates 89 and 91 were temporarily closed because of tractor trailer mishaps and emergency officials reported numerous accidents and outages.
Both tractor-trailer accidents involved the operators attempting to avoid other vehicles. No injuries were reported in either incident.
Traffic was halted on I-91 northbound in Ascutney for about 90 minutes Monday morning as emergency responders cleared an accident involving a tractor-trailer whose operator tried to avoid striking an out-of-control SUV.
According to a Vermont State Police news release, Karl Rex, 22, of Brick, N.J., was driving a 2006 Toyota Sequoia around 9:45 a.m. Police said Rex had just passed a tractor-trailer driven by Raymond Simoneau III, 43, of Claremont, when Rex lost control of his vehicle while returning to the travel lane.
Simoneau saw the Sequoia lose control and tried to brake and veer left in order to avoid a collision, but the SUV continued rotating back in that direction, police said, and the two vehicles made contact. The tractor-trailer ultimately propelled both into the guardrails before coming to rest, blocking the Interstate.
Troopers cited Rex for driving too fast given the weather conditions, which included rain, near-freezing temperatures and a buildup of slush and ice, especially in the passing lane.
Just earlier, New Hampshire State Police had closed I-89 southbound in Grantham after a tractor-trailer entered the median when it tried to avoid hitting emergency responders to an unrelated accident.
According to a news release from authorities, emergency crews were working around 8:20 a.m. to retrieve several vehicles that had skidded off the roadway. Police had closed the right lane during the operation.
Police said that as a tow truck was pulling a car from the bank, a tractor-trailer driven by Corey Ober, 21, of Ohio, lost control as it approached the scene. Ober was able to avoid colliding with workers at the scene by steering to the left, police said, but the truck — which was loaded with about 17,000 lbs of doors — slid off the left shoulder into the median snow bank.
Traffic was halted for about an hour as motorists were detoured off of Exit 14 to Route 10 to proceed back onto I-89 at Exit 13.
In Claremont, slick roads were blamed for a large propane truck rolling off the road and onto its passenger side on Jarvis Hill just after 9 a.m. The driver was not injured, according to police, and no other vehicles were involved. The area is sparsely populated with only a few homes, which were evacuated.
The accident happened just as the road begins a long downhill about a mile north of Ainsworth Road. The road was shutdown all day as a second truck was brought in and the propane was transferred. Vehicles were rerouted through Claremont Junction on the Plains Road. Crews were still at the scene into the evening.
Emergency officials released a slew of announcements and alerts throughout Monday urging motorists to use caution, as the temperatures, which reached 40 degrees some places, began to fall. Single-digit lows are predicted for this morning.
“The timing of these conditions couldn’t be worse,” Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said in a statement Monday afternoon. “With so many cars on the road it is critical that motorists take it easy and drive appropriately for conditions — which are likely to change quickly.”
Temperatures were hovering at about 35 degrees Fahrenheit in White River Junction around 6 p.m. Monday, and felt like 26 F with the wind chill, according to the National Weather Service website.
But Mike Muccilli, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington, said the mercury was expected to plunge overnight.
“That combined with some winds of 10 to 20 mph will produce some pretty cold wind chills on the order of 5 to 10 (degrees) below zero, which is cold but not quite as bad as what we had last week,” Muccilli said.
Winds today should dry out roadways, Muccilli said, but he cautioned that patches of black ice will remain and that sidewalks, which have poorer drainage than roads, are likely to remain particularly slippery.
Although some area hardware stores reported selling out of ice-melting salt, there was plenty still available at Hanover True Value. Still, customers were snatching it up quickly Monday, with about 30 bags sold to noncommercial customers in a three-hour period in the early afternoon.
“It’s our single most popular item today,” said Hanover True Value owner Sonya Campbell, who called the icy precipitation outside her office a “nasty weather trick.”
“This is the hat-trick of weather,” she said, referring to the season’s two previous significant storms.
Several Dartmouth College buildings were among those that lost power in Hanover briefly Monday morning. College spokesman Justin Anderson said there were no reports of classes being disrupted by the outage, which mostly affected Dartmouth buildings around the campus green.
Liberty Utilities spokesman John Shore said a total of 143 customers were affected by the outage, which lasted about two hours and was caused by an underground fault. Power was restored just before noon, Shore said.
Flooding erupted on Route 12A in West Lebanon Monday morning. City officials issued an alert about “heavy ponding water on many roadways.
“We ask for patience and for all to use extreme caution when passing through standing water,” it said.
Lebanon officials also postponed work on a water main break until today because of the bad weather. Benning Street residents were receiving water Monday but the water will be turned off today for about four to six hours, according to an alert from the city.
Several schools in the region either closed or delayed opening. Lebanon schools started two hours late and postponed a choral concert, which had already been postponed once before because of bad weather last month.
At Thetford Academy, students who had expected to return after a two-week vacation were given one more day of respite.
Valley News correspondent Patrick O’Grady contributed to this report. Maggie Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3220.
Sonya Campbell is the owner of Hanover True Value hardware store. Her first name was omitted in an earlier version of this story.