The sun broke through a layer of clouds late Tuesday afternoon, but only after the weather took its toll on Columbia’s roads. Eight traffic accidents occurred within three hours, three of which involved injuries and multiple vehicles. Sgt. Timothy Moriarity, Traffic Unit Supervisor, said the heavy rain played a factor.
The most severe accident occurred just west of the Lake of the Woods Exit on Interstate 70. Moriarity and other members of the Traffic Unit were preparing for the Veterans Corporation Memorial Day’ Salute to Veterans air show at Columbia Regional Airport when they were called to the scene around 2:30 p.m., he said.
A tractor-trailer traveling westbound slowed going down a hill; the car behind did not, Moriarity said. After hitting the tractor-trailer from behind, the car spun across the median and collided with another tractor- trailer heading east. Simultaneously, in the westbound lane, a following tractor trailer jack-knifed, overturning its load of piping onto the highway. Police said a FedEx truck was hit by the piping and drove into the median to avoid further collisions.
Moriarity said four of the six people involved were transported to the hospital. According to Assistant Fire Chief Ken Hines, at least one extraction was needed to remove a person from their vehicle.
The first accident of the day occurred around 1:45 p.m. near mile marker 127 on I-70. Police said a vehicle traveling the wrong way caused a head-on collision in the eastbound lane. In the opposite lane, vehicles collided, and two tractor trailers pinned three cars against the guardrail.
St. Louis resident Gill Van Horn was traveling west on I-70 when the accident occurred about one mile ahead of him.
“It was raining hard,” Van Horn said. “They probably couldn’t stop because when the temperature’s high, there’s more oil on the road, mixing with the rain and making it slick.”
West of Columbia, an accident at mile marker 113 on I-70 in Cooper County reduced traffic to one lane westbound for half an hour. Hines said the accident involved pick-up trucks and resulted in only one injury.
According to Moriarity, weather conditions often have a large impact on traffic because they alter the speeds that drivers travel.
“Some vehicles, especially the big ones, can handle it,” Moriarity said. “They drive closer to the speed limit while others don’t.”