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Frozen roads throw drivers in the ditch

Posted: January 15, 2013 - 9:36pm  |  Updated: January 16, 2013 - 9:19am
City crews in Kenai and Soldotna have been working to sand roadways to cope with melting and freezing conditions that have caused excessive ice.   Rashah McChesney
Rashah McChesney
City crews in Kenai and Soldotna have been working to sand roadways to cope with melting and freezing conditions that have caused excessive ice.

As of Sunday there have been 21 vehicle accidents on the Kenai Peninsula following the Saturday rain and the subsequent freeze-thaw cycles, said Megan Peters, Alaska State Troopers spokesperson.

“It’s the change of conditions that present the most hazards,” said Rick Feller, Alaska Department of Transportation spokesperson.

During the day, Feller said temperatures have jumped above freezing, flooding the roadways with water from melting snow and ice; then, at night, as the temperature drops, the roads begin to freeze.

It is that cycle, he said, that has caked most of the Peninsula’s roadways in inches of ice.

“Normally we get it (each year,)” said Mark “Curly” Langfitt, the city of Kenai streets department foreman. “It’ll go away, and we’ll get it again.”

Often, also, much of the rain water that is freezing on the roads flows down culverts and storm drains. But, because the ice sometimes thaws from the surface down, many drains remain clogged during the day and the water instead flows down trenches in the road, Feller said. As a result, much of DOT’s time maintaining the roads is spent unplugging the iced-over drains, he said.

To improve traction on the roads, Langfitt said his Kenai street crew lay down tons of sand. He said his crew spent 10 hours with two trucks Saturday dispersing sand.

Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said the city spends about $200,000 a year in sand.

Often Kenai crews only drop sand at intersections, Langfitt said, but because icy trenches have been forming in the roads making it more difficult to drive straight, his crews have been dropping sand on the entire length of icy roads.

When vehicles do slide off the road, Central Emergency Services Safety Officer Brad Nelson said there is a roughly $50 investment all drivers can make to facilitate the recovery process.

All drivers, he said, should carry a kit. In that kit should be warm gloves, a flashlight, flares or something to mark the accident, a safety vest, a snow shovel, a tow strap, and kitty litter or salt for additional traction.

Some retailers sell ready-made kits, but he said drivers can make their own. If drivers buy kitty litter, though, he said they need to ensure it is a brand that will not crumble when it becomes wet. Also, he said, drivers should avoid tow ropes because straps are stronger and less likely to fray.

Nelson said those who buy the kits should place them in the center of their vehicles — not in the back — to place the weight evenly over the vehicle’s axles for better traction.

But to avoid using the kit, Langfitt said drivers need to just pay attention.

“You just got to drive with caution in weather like this,” Langfitt said.

Peters stressed that point. She said drivers should slow down and know what the conditions are ahead of them to avoid being caught off guard.

“The roads are only as safe as the drivers on them,” she said. “They need to be patient.”


Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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kenairesident 01/16/13 - 10:05 am
here is a "news" article from

here is a "news" article from Radio Kenai yesterday.

" The City of Soldotna is working to get the word out to the public that the berms in the center of the roads are solid ice, crews with the city’s maintenance department are asking drivers in the city to please do not try to drive through them.

City officials are apologizing for any inconvenience this may cause as city maintenance crews will begin working to remove the berms tomorrow morning. In the meantime, crews will continue to scrape and sand roads."

Duh.. why does the city of Soldotna do that? doesnt make sense to me.

the City of Kenai does a great job with sanding!

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 01/16/13 - 11:08 am
Be careful

With this new snow on top of that ice it will cause many falls or sliding accidents from autos and people could get hurt from either. Be careful either walking or driving.

Allen 01/16/13 - 07:36 pm
City of Kenai Needs Improvement

I hope the City of Kenai will improve their snow removal and sanding. These last few years are the worst ever. They do not plow snow regularly except on the main roads, so the subdivision roads are full of ruts and bumps. This year, they dumped tons of snow on the driveways, when in the past they used gates on the graders to prevent that.

Recently, they did not sand subdivision roads, just intersections, and they did not plow the thawed out snow/ice to the sides of the road, leaving the roads even more slippery, bumpy and rutty. They dump huge piles of snow at intersections, blocking the view of oncoming traffic.

Today there was little to no snow removal on any of the roads I traveled to get to and from work.

The City does a great job of plowing the airport, but needs to do a better job on roads, especially in subdivisions and intersections. They should contract out road maintenance like the Borough does, instead of just relying on a few employees when there are big snow storms, or days of rain on top of snow and ice, like recently.

I'd like to know what the City's process is for snow removal and sanding.

jlmh 01/17/13 - 12:42 am

The ice quality yesterday was very thick and smooth like an ice rink, with a fresh layer of powdery snow in the morning to hide it. The first step out of my car slid out from under me and I landed flat on my butt. Still beats last winter's shoveling marathons.

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