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Weather makes driving ugly

Road crews have mishaps, clear way for ambulances 3 times

Staff writer

A week of snow, ice, and bitter sub-zero temperatures made driving so hazardous on county roads that snowplows and fire fighters with backhoes had to clear roads for ambulances and pull cars out of snowdrifts and ditches.

It also led to accidents with snowplows.

A Kansas Department of Transportation snowplow operator was taken to Hillsboro Community Hospital after his head got trapped Monday under the blade of the snowplow at US-56 and K-15/Holly Rd.

Joe Palic, area engineer at Marion KDOT department, said the employee, whom he declined to name, was trying to unhook a wing plow on the right side of the truck when the blade came down and trapped his head.

A passing farmer, Clyde Jost, saw it happen and stopped to free the operator.

Jost climbed into the cab, and the employee shouted out which levers to operate, Palic said.

Jost then drove the snowplow operator to Hillsboro Community Hospital.

He later was taken by ambulance to Wesley Medical Center’s trauma unit in Wichita.

“He was lucky that a local farmer came by,” Palic said.

Plow blades weigh a minimum of 400 to 800 pounds, Palic said.

“The way they’re made, that blade is somewhat free-floating when it gets to the ground,” Palic said.

Palic said the operator was expected to be released from Wesley by today.

Road and Bridge department superintendent Steve Hudson, 59, had his own equipment mishap Jan. 9 when he failed to negotiate a curve at 3:10 p.m. He drove a 2015 International 7600 country truck into the right ditch, where it overturned.

Deputy Bruce Burke reported that the accident was because of road conditions and inattentive driving, but did not issue a citation. The truck had minor damage to its left side, plow, and undercarriage and was removed by road and bridge employees.

Numerous other accidents happened because of snow, ice, and blowing snow from heavy winds.

A Raleigh, North Carolina, man’s Toyota slid into a ditch at 7:05 p.m. Jan. 10 after the car hit a slick spot.

A driver hit his head on the steering wheel at 7:11 p.m. Jan. 10 when his car slid into a ditch on Indigo Rd. between 80th and 90th Rds.

An ambulance headed to a patient in Canada Jan. 9 became stuck in snow and was freed by a tow truck after county and state road crews were unable to free it.

On the same day, a county road grader and a Goessel firefighter operating a backhoe helped clear a path for a Goessel first responder and for Peabody and Marion ambulances on the way to treat a man reportedly foaming and the mouth, not breathing, and being given cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Goessel fire chief Matt Voth said firefighter John Unruh, who owns West Branch Excavating, cleared the path for the ambulance.

Ambulance director Chuck Kenney said the patient had been welding in a shop when he lost consciousness.

“It may have been fumes that got to him,” Kenny said. “He’s alive and around because they were able to help us get there.”

Just more than three hours later, a county snowplow cleared a path so Hillsboro ambulance could reach a man who fell near 140th and Falcon Rds.

At 5:32 p.m. that day, another snowplow cleared the way for Tampa ambulance to take a woman from a farmhouse near 290th and Pawnee Rd. to St. Luke Hospital because she was unable to walk because of leg pain.

Kenney said he is thankful that road crews were able to help.

“Our road crews were really dealt a bad hand in this weather,” Kenney said. “Without them, we could have taken hours to get to them and get them out. I give them kudos for being true first responders.”

Many unreported slide-offs were handled by county farmers.

County commissioners Monday talked about farmers clearing roads and pulling stranded motorists from ditches.

“I really want to thank the local farmers and neighbors,” commissioners Kent Becker said. “Some of them bailed me out.”

Becker asked whether there was a way road and bridge employees could get overtime and whether the county could reward the volunteer service of area farmers in clearing roads.

“We’ve had a number of large equipment owners who were out assisting through today,” Becker said, adding that they had gone through a lot of money on diesel fuel.”

County clerk Tina Spencer suggested paying a stipend. County counsel Brad Jantz said commissioners should create an application for the stipend and a tax receipt when paying it.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said road graders had worked very hard in recent days, and he wished the public would have more respect.

“Please, when you’re facing one of our graders, pull over for them, wait for them to go by,” Dallke said.

Commissioner Jonah Gehring had words for drivers who abandoned stuck vehicles.

“Please leave us a name and a number so we can get hold of you after we get it off the road,” Gehring said.

Last modified Jan. 17, 2024

 

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