A winter storm didn’t pack as big of a snowfall punch in Pottawatomie County as expected on Christmas Day, but it did leave an icy glaze on roadways that caused three rollover accidents in Shawnee as well as the shutdown of Interstate 40 near Prague for a jackknifed tractor-trailer rig.
The semi jackknifed at about 9 a.m. Tuesday morning at mile marker 197, with troopers closing the eastbound lanes between SH 9A and the Prague exit at U.S. 377 for about 40 minutes. No injuries were reported.
In the city limits of Shawnee, emergency personnel responded to several accidents, including a rollover crash on Shawnee Mall Drive, which was reported by firefighters to be extremely slick.
Shawnee Police Lt. Tom Pringle said that accident was actually one of three rollover accidents caused by the slick conditions. The other two occurred on SH 18/Harrison Street north of I-40, with only minor injuries involved in those. In another incident, Pringle said a driver was shaken up a bit after he lost control of his vehicle and it went sliding on Harrison Street south of MacArthur.
Carla Tollett, spokeswoman for St. Anthony Hospital in Shawnee, said by late Tuesday afternoon, the Emergency Room had seen one patient for a weather-related fall while three persons were treated for injuries suffered in a traffic accident and then released.
A winter storm warning was in effect Tuesday after forecasts called for whiteout conditions and several inches of snow.
Shawnee/Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said the storm track was farther south than forecasted, so southern Pottawatomie County received more of the precipitation.
“As with any winter storm, 40 miles can make a big difference,” Lynch said.
“Shawnee received some freezing rain and sleet and just a dusting of snow,” Lynch said Tuesday afternoon. “A light layer of accumulation is visible on protected and elevated surfaces. Most road surfaces have frozen dry.”
Lynch said Shawnee street crews began treating roads with a salt and sand mixture about 4 a.m. Tuesday and would continue through late Tuesday afternoon.
The Shawnee Municipal Authority did report a water line break on Ricky Road, so crews were making repairs to that line on Christmas day.
The winter storm warning was posted for much of the state, with officials urging motorists to not take any chances on slick roadways, especially following a 21-vehicle accident in Oklahoma City early Tuesday morning.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said road conditions in the area, including Pottawatomie County, were slick and hazardous Tuesday afternoon.
And with an icy glaze, drivers weren’t realizing how slick the roadways actually were until it was too late.
Page 2 of 2 - “If you don’t’ have to travel, don’t get out,” Randolph said.
Based on little traffic in the area, it appeared in Pottawatomie County that many locally were heeding warnings to stay home and off the roads Tuesday.
“We’re glad traffic has been lighter,” Randolph said, but with temperatures forecast to plummet as low as 9 degrees overnight, further travel problems were anticipated.
For those who do have to travel, Randolph advises them to drive slow and allow plenty of space between them and other drivers. If motorists encounter a vehicle breakdown or travel problem, they may call *55 to contact local OHP Troop Headquarters.
During snow or ice conditions, crews from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation also have the following suggestions for drivers.
• Check road conditions before getting out on the roads.
• Stay at least 200 feet behind road-clearing equipment; crews need room to maneuver and can engage plowing or spreading materials without notice.
• Allow extra space between vehicles so there is adequate distance for braking in wet and icy conditions.
• Be aware of “black ice,” which looks wet on the roadway, but is actually a thin layer of ice.
• Please be patient, plan trips ahead and allow extra time to reach destinations.