CLINTON — Winter weather has arrived in Clinton and those who were stuck in it on Friday got much more than they bargained for.
As the region was slammed with freezing rain overnight Thursday, accumulating about a tenth of an inch of ice according to the National Weather Service, travel on Friday became a hazardous situation that the Clinton Police Department did its best to contain.
By 10 a.m. the police department had already reported dozens of traffic accidents, some more severe than others, and as the day continued the calls just kept coming in.
"It's getting to the point now that the patrols can't keep up. There's just so many calls coming in that we can't keep up," Officer Terry St. Ores said. "Officers were ordered to not investigate them; just hand out state accident reports and move on to the next one, as long as there are no injuries."
According to St. Ores, the city street crews were able to get to the busy Clinton roads to put salt down early, but the problem areas were side streets, residential areas and hills.
Several calls of cars getting stuck on the side of the road or sliding into ditches kept patrols busy and clearing the scene was as difficult as getting to the accident sites.
"We'll get calls for people that are stuck, some on the side of a hill some that in a ditch but the problem is we're not allowing wreckers out on main roads to get them," St. Ores said. "We'll make a determination of where the vehicles are in the ditch, but if people aren't going to see that you have a wrecker the risk is too high."
To maintain some order among the chaos, multiple patrols were dispatched to the same accident site and officers were equipped with appropriate winter gear to keep them safe during a service call.
Patrol vehicles were also equipped with tire enhancers and chains to make traveling from scene to scene an easier process.
"Basically we make sure they have the necessary equipment like cleats and reflector vests. We also have multiple units at an accident scene so the visibility of lights is there," St. Ores said. "Several of our squad cars are now SUVs, with all-wheel drive and that makes a big difference but we usually put tire enhancers on the Crown Vics and it does help."
As another round of winter weather is expected to hit today, St. Ores and his officers are doing what they can to prepare for another round of what they experienced Friday.
"There's not a whole lot of prep we can do from our point. Right now we're just doing what we can to get through," St. Ores said. "But if (the ice) doesn't melt and that snow comes, we're going to be in even more trouble."