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Photo by M. Scott Moon
Kenai Fire Department medics and other motorists help extricate one of two victims of a single-vehicle accident on the Kenai Spur Highway on Tuesday afternoon. Icy roads kept emergency workers busy much of the morning.

Police respond to accidents caused by first snowfall

First come, first swerve

Posted: October 16, 2012 - 10:07pm  |  Updated: October 18, 2012 - 8:57am
Kenai Fire Department medics and other motorists help extricate one of two victims of a single-vehicle accident on the Kenai Spur Highway on Tuesday afternoon. Icy roads kept emergency workers busy much of the morning.  Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Kenai Fire Department medics and other motorists help extricate one of two victims of a single-vehicle accident on the Kenai Spur Highway on Tuesday afternoon. Icy roads kept emergency workers busy much of the morning.

The Kenai Peninsula’s emergency response agencies hurried themselves Tuesday addressing the area’s many road accidents. The season’s first snowfall caused drivers to swerve into each other and off the road.

“This is pretty normal,” said Soldotna Police Sgt. Robb Quelland. “Everyone has to get re-accustomed … on winter driving. We plan. We know it’s coming and when it happens, (drivers) are just unprepared.”

The long lines at auto shops are an indication of the lack of preparation. People should plan for snow by Oct. 15, Quelland said.

All agencies responded to calls throughout the day and into the evening. Road flares, redirected traffic and rubbernecking passers-by dominated drivers’ Tuesday commutes. Some of the accidents resulted in injures, so emergency responders were out in full force, too.

Drivers should remain overly cautious during the first days of snowfall, authorities said.

Five car accidents occurred in the Kenai from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Kenai Police Sgt. Ben Langham said.

None of the accidents were fatal or life threatening, but three rollovers sent drivers and passengers to the hospital, Langham said.

“We’ve been actually pretty lucky in terms of accidents we’ve had,” he said.

Both Langham and Kenai Fire Department Chief Mike Tilly said accidents are common during the first few days of snow.

“Obviously the primary cause is the slick road conditions,” Langham said, “but I think that a lot of the time it catches people off guard, and they don’t realize immediately just how bad the road conditions are.”

Peninsula residents can expect one or two more days of snow alongside cooler temperatures and northern winds, said Anchorage National Weather Service Forecaster Sam Albanese.

Less than an inch of snow was expected to accumulate, Albanese said.

Tilly advises drivers to watch for black ice when temperatures drop at night.

“This is just the beginning of the things to come,” Tilly said. “So I encourage everybody to stay buckled up while they’re driving, drive within their means and just be aware of the ever changing road conditions that we’re going to see here in the coming months.”

The Soldotna Police Department responded to five accidents — during which residents reported everything from “vehicles in distress” to ditch-diving caravans — from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. One of the accidents was a collision and the others were vehicles in the ditch, two at Funny River Road and two at Kalifornsky Beach Road.

“That’s pretty consistent with the influx of traffic into (Soldotna),” Quelland said.

Worst-case scenarios involve vehicles flipped over on their roofs. As of 4 p.m., the Police Department responded to two such accidents, Quelland said.

Two units generally respond to those accidents; one unit secures the scene while another investigates the accidents. Three or four agencies, such as Central Emergency Services and the Alaska State Troopers, respond to the accidents at the same time.

Passers-by generally do not stop for accidents; they tend to call them in to dispatch, so the local police departments often receive a flurry of calls for one accident. Quelland encourages residents to see if people are in need of assistance, which helps emergency responders react accordingly. They should not, however, attempt to move injured people.

Also, giving emergency personnel ample room to pass is important.

The troopers received 11 reports of vehicle accidents, none of which resulted in injuries, said troopers’ spokeswoman Megan Peters in an email. They also received nine reports of vehicles in ditches.

The number of cars ditch diving was probably closer to 18, as most of the reports involved two vehicles taking the plunge. Those vehicles did not collide, she said.

The roads will clear up; people are now on alert. But another day of accidents is bound to happen, Quelland said. The next snowfall will be coupled with its fair share of accidents. As days get colder and roads get icier, there will be more accidents at stop signs, he said.


Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at

Dan Schwartz and Rashah McChesney contributed to this report.

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Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 10/17/12 - 09:05 am
Repeat Warnings hardly never get people to prepare.

We knew it was coming. All Signs pointed to it's soon arrival, yet many still refused to prepare and suffer from that lack of reading & understanding their responcibility to prepare.
Rashah McChesney wrote an article intitled 'Something Wicked, this way comes' in referance to winter in Alaska and explained the need to prepare for it's arrival and the many differant areas it could & would affect peoples lives when it does come.
Rashah's advice is on winters arrival and is continual adice and given in hopes that people will take the advice and prepare early to avoid troubles leading to pain & suffering from winters harsh effects.
Many listen and do prepare for winter, others don't for reasons unknown other than possibly just out of simply not wanting to Believe that it will happen and it will come as History shows.
Not wanting to Believe that it would, or could happen even though All Signs point to it is not only practiced in regard to winter, but many other areas of daily life.
'Something Wicked, this way comes,' and it's not winter only, but will people prepare for it's arrival, or not prepare is the question?
Some times it's to late to try & prepare for Wicked events of life with no help afforded for failing to prepare after it comes.
Winter has come, just as all the Signs pointed to it's arrival and now we must scramble to prepare for it's arrival with things we should have already done to avoid the rush by many others that also would not believe the Signs & prepare.
Something Wicked this way comes again and it will be in regard to economics and all things needed to try and survive Normal daily life, but Normal daily life will be gone and we must establish a new Normal daily life with what we have.
For many that New Normal will be Harsh & Wicked in it's self, due to lack of preperation.
Avoid the rush, prepare early, often and continuosly.

It sure was slick yesterday morning as i went to Kenai to pray with other men at our church building & shop afterwards for foods in order to prepare for that coming wickedness, and i'm not talking about winter, it's already here.

justamom 10/17/12 - 02:34 pm
It's always the big rigs

Seems like it's always the pick-up trucks and SUVs in the ditch. A lot of people who drive them think because of their size they are safe at regular speeds on icy roads. Slow down no matter what you drive! I'm just glad you are okay.

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 10/17/12 - 05:55 pm
justamom i agree, but

I agree that alot of large suv's are usually the ones that are in the ditch on their sides.
I think it's due to the fact that these auto's are top heavy and short wheel based which causes them to be unstable.
I have owned and still do this type of top heavy auto's and one has to be very careful when possible slick surfaces could arise and cause you to swerve or slid side ways which results in roll overs or rolls to the side.
But one could also show where small auto's are more dangerious in other areas on road ways, such as moose or bigger auto's and result in much more trauma to occupants than big rigs do.

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