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Columbia roads cause trouble for drivers after first snow of season

Sunday, December 12, 2010 | 3:33 p.m. CST; updated 6:14 p.m. CST, Sunday, December 12, 2010

COLUMBIA — In the aftermath of wintry weather Saturday night and Sunday morning, Columbia motorists were forced to relearn how to drive in the snow — with some hazardous outcomes.

About a dozen accidents occurred between midnight Saturday and noon Sunday, not including vehicles that simply slid off the roadway, said Sgt. Joe Bernhard of the Columbia Police Department.

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"You can be going along fine and because of blowing snow and drifts find yourself going way too fast for the roadway conditions," Bernhard said.

One incident involving several vehicles, including a patrol car and a tow truck, occurred near the intersection of Ann Street and Broadway. After an initial accident around 10 p.m., other cars slid down the hill into a growing pileup of minor collisions, Bernhard said.

Police closed Broadway for more than an hour, diverting traffic at William Street.

Meanwhile, the high winds created difficulties for the snow plow crews and interfered  with their work as it refroze surfaces and blew fresh powder across roadways.

Jill Stedem, public information specialist with the Columbia Public Works Department, said the full crew of 18 trucks was out Saturday night. While the state plans to reduce plowing in some areas, Stedem said the city crews are maintaining the same schedule as in years past.

Plows this weekend spread a salt and cinder mixture. Cinders help with both traction and melting, especially when the sun hits the particles, Stedem said. 

Even as the sun shines, road surfaces that appear thawed can hold more problems than at first sight, especially with frozen patches. "Braking, turning, stopping: do it all gradually," Bernhard said. "Drive slower than you think you need to."


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