by Pilar Pedraza
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
5:29 PM CST, December 20, 2012
The morning drive in Wichita took much longer than usual because of slippery roads Thursday. The City of Wichita is now apologizing for road conditions.
"We would like to apologize to the commuting public for difficulties they may have encountered on their morning commute," said Joe Pajor, Deputy Director of Public Works and Utilities. Traffic along some major roads, like on 21st Street, was moving at only 10 miles an hour.
He says they did pre-treat elevated roads and and overpasses, but they didn't do major surface streets because they expected to have more time.
"A lot of ice. Way more ice than I think anybody knew we would get," said Darryl Longpine, a tow truck operator, about this morning's road conditions.
While the storm dropped mostly slush on the Wichita area overnight, by 6:00 a.m. that slush started to freeze.
"There were a lot of slide offs, there were jackknifed semis, there were vehicles that were stuck," said Tom Hein, spokesman for the Wichita area of the Kansas Department of Transportation.,
"Typically, if we go from slush to frozen pavement it occurs in a gradual manner," Pajor said. But this time it froze fast, too fast for road crews to keep up.
Pajor says the pavement usually freezes slowly, but with this storm things froze within an hour. He says it all happened around six Thursday morning, right at the start of the commute. He says this was badly behaved storm and they didn't have time to get a head of it.
He says all city crews are now out treating major roads with salt and sand. Pajor says they are going to revisit the city's policy on treating roads to try and keep this from happening again.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is responsible for clearing the state's highways and says there's nothing to apologize for.
"We were out treating all night," Hein said. "But, it just kept coming down. It was coming sideways. There was a lot of wind to it. It's just impossible to get it perfect. Before the sun comes out and really starts drying it, the morning commute after an overnight storm is always trouble."
That's something tow truck driver Mike Taylor thought he knew, before he was almost run over Thursday morning.
He was getting ready to load a vehicle that had slid off the road onto his tow truck, when pick-up truck lost control, hit the state trooper behind Taylor, then ran right up the ramp of Taylor's truck.
"I just ducked behind the wheels right here," said Taylor, pointing to where he took shelter. "And kind of hid behind the truck. And then, as the truck impacted, it threw me underneath the truck."
"It was just a reaction. I didn't really think about anything other than trying to get out of the way," Taylor said, describing his quick actions.
Taylor doesn't blame the road conditions for the accident.
"The roads were treacherous, but it was the driving habits of the people , the motorists out there," Taylor said.
The Kansas Highway Patrol agrees.
"Today we had a couple of patrol vehicles actually hit," said Lt. Roger Baughman, Kansas Highway Patrol. "If you're hitting marked police vehicles with lights that are flashing, you're going way too fast," he added.
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