Three hurt during snowy, slick morning commute

Motorists travel on slick roads during Wednesday's commute.
Motorists travel on slick roads during Wednesday's commute.

Three people were hurt — two seriously — in accidents on slick roads that made the Wednesday morning commute treacherous in portions of the Wichita area.

A 26-year-old Wichita man, who was inspecting damage sustained by sliding into a guard rail, was critically injured after another vehicle knocked his Dodge Ram pickup into him along northbound I-135 near the First Street exit in Newton, authorities said.

He was taken to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis in critical condition, Harvey County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Melissa Flavin said. He remained in critical condition late Wednesday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The 61-year-old Wichita man who was driving the Chevy Silverado that hit the Ram was taken to Newton Medical Center and then transferred to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in serious condition, Flavin said. A passenger in the Silverado was taken to the hospital in Newton with injuries not considered life-threatening.

I-135 north of Wichita and K-96 on the north side of the city were the sites of numerous accidents and slide-offs, a Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor said. She called K-96 “really, really bad.”

Light rain changed over to snow shortly after midnight, according to the National Weather Service in Wichita. Though only .10 of an inch of snow fell in the city, it was enough to make bridges and elevated routes slick.

AAA Kansas’ roadside rescue team had responded to about 200 calls by about 5 p.m. Wednesday, a news release said.

That’s a 35 percent increase over a normal Wednesday, AAA Kansas spokesman Jim Hanni said in the release.

The busiest area for the rescue team was near Manhattan, Wamego, Junction City and St. Mary’s on Highway 24 or I-70.

“This morning I reported the primary type of calls for service was from accidents or vehicles sliding off the roadway that require pulling them back onto the roadway via extrication (wench-outs),” Hanni said in the release.

As temperatures Wednesday dropped, “more of the calls were for jump starts and batteries,” he said.

Black ice played a “significant role,” Hanni said.

He urged drivers to slow down and devote full attention to driving. Stay well behind other vehicles, he recommended, and avoid using cruise control in icy conditions. Drivers whose vehicles skid should steer in the direction they want to go and avoid slamming on their brakes.

Clearing skies and warmer weather are expected for the Wichita area through the weekend. AccuWeather, forecaster for The Eagle, predicts a high of 40 on Thursday and near 60 by Sunday.

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