Eyewitness accounts: Icy roads slow commute, present danger

Friday, January 31, 2014 | 10:06 p.m. CST; updated 7:12 a.m. CST, Saturday, February 1, 2014

COLUMBIA — A combination of freezing temperatures and rain made driving treacherous Friday evening, leading to multiple accidents throughout Columbia.

Shortly after 8 p.m., public safety officials had responded to about 40 injury accidents, but accident reports came in more slowly as the evening progressed.

The Missourian collected accounts and information from residents who drove through the icy conditions, responded to accidents or were watching the roads Friday evening.

The scene on the roads

Steve Sells pumped the brakes on his red Dodge Neon and lost control. He slipped on the icy road into a ditch, rotating his car nearly perpendicular to the road. Sells got out of his car and gave a thumbs up. 

About 10 yards ahead of him was a Tiger Towing truck, attempting to pull another car out of a ditch.

"Are you going to help me next?" Sells asked.

Sells was going south on Rock Quarry Road between Grindstone Parkway and East Nifong Boulevard. Behind Sells were endless headlights backed up to Grindstone.

Soon after Sells' accident, an MU student came walking down the side of the road with her backpack.

"It's taken me nearly 40 minutes to get home from campus," Stephanie Morse said. "So I ditched my car over in The Crossing parking lot. I just live down the road, so it's not a bad walk."

Morse walked home, and Sells stood by his car. Some of the drivers who had been waiting on the backed-up road turned around. Then there were sirens.

Around 6:25 p.m., a firetruck turned onto Rock Quarry from East Nifong. A crew stepped out of the truck. 

Tiger Towing finished retrieving one car from a ditch and moved on to Sells' vehicle . A Columbia Police cruiser drove up to the scene to accompany the firefighters. 

The firefighters began directing traffic, having cars pull into a trailer park one by one, reverse and turn around toward Grindstone.

The line of cars wouldn't end. 

One of the firefighters turned to another.

"Good grief," he said.

Laura Johnston, eyewitness

Laura Johnston, an assistant professor and news editor for the Missourian, left the Hitt Parking Garage at 5:15 p.m. Although she had to drive only 6 miles to get home, she said it took her an hour to make the drive. She saw a Columbia Public Works truck at Scott Boulevard and Chapel Hill Road and another at Broadway and Providence Road, both treating the streets.

"Everyone was driving very cautious," she said. "If you were going more than 20 miles per hour, it was like you were going too fast."

Erika Rackers, eyewitness

Erika Rackers spoke with the Missourian at about 7 p.m. while she was at the Break Time off Highway 63 near Deer Park Road.

She said she saw two cars flipped over Highway 63 North near the Ashland exit.

"Eight or ten cars were wrecked, cars were everywhere, in the ditch, on the median, but cars were still moving," she said of conditions in that area.

Lindsay O'Connor, eyewitness

Lindsay O'Connor, a hostess at Romano's Macaroni Grill on Stadium Boulevard, said at 7 p.m. that the roads were extremely icy.

"My friend said it was like driving on a sheet of ice driving here," she said.

August Garbey, eyewitness

"As far as the main roads, they're OK," said August Garbey, a delivery driver for the Sub Shop on West Ash Street. "I saw a couple accidents on Providence. I saw two cars on each side of the road and a cop."

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.

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