Icy conditions cause havoc on roadways

February 4, 2011 5:39:36 PM PST
The winter weather is wreaking havoc on the roads in the Houston area.

Houston police say officers responded to about 750 traffic accidents in the city during the period from 10pm Thursday until 11am Friday.

With freezing weather expected throughout tonight and into tomorrow morning, HPD urges citizens to refrain from driving, especially on highways or overpasses, unless they absolutely have to.

Houston police are also asking motorists involved in traffic accidents that disable their vehicles in the icy conditions to call 9-1-1 and remain in their vehicles until a police officer or wrecker driver arrives at the scene.

Officials hold news conference on weather situation

The mayor and county judge gave an update on the weather situation Friday afternoon, along with what they're doing to make sure the roads are safe. They said that our area got the worst possible situation since freezing rain is the hardest element to deal with.

"Can you imagine if we had had school buses out on these highways? People trying to get their kids to school? One of the best things that happened was all those school districts made the decision not to have school today," said Harris Co. Judge Ed Emmett.

"Those folks who heeded the warnings and stayed home, stayed off the roads and made themselves safer, but think about what those numbers might have been had we not asked people to stay home and ask a lot of our businesses to shut down," said Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

The mayor said she expects the city of Houston to return back to its normal weekend operations on Saturday.

Freeway accidents all over town Friday morning

A three-car accident on the Gulf Freeway near Woodridge sent a group of men jumping over the guardrail to safety. According to one of the accident victims, a green Jeep was sliding sideways on the highway and then slid into his vehicle. Twenty minutes later while the accident victims and the tow truck driver were standing outside, a third car came sliding in, forcing the men to jump over the guardrail.

"I didn't even have time to look out behind me to the look at the car," said the accident victim. "He says, 'Watch out!' I just figured there wasn't anything besides cars coming. I heard, 'Watch out' and I just jumped over the rail without looking and thinking about it. We just had to move."

The third driver was injured and had to be transported to the hospital. Police arrived about two hours later because they were trying to respond to the hundreds of accidents that were out at the same time as that accident.

The roads are still pretty slippery and authorities are advising residents to stay in if possible.

Meanwhile, ice-covered roads led to a big pile up on the Southwest Freeway this morning. Four cars on the Chimney Rock exit ramp slid and crashed into each other. Because of the ice, emergency crews couldn't drive to get to the six people who were trapped. They wound up having to walk them down the ramp on stretchers. All six are expected to recover.

Icy roads were just too much for a Houston Police Department motorcycle officer. The officer lost control on a bridge on the Hardy Toll Road just south of 1960 and crashed. He's OK, but the bike was heavily damaged.

And on the West Loop this morning, half dozen or so cars were stuck on the exit ramp off of the Southwest Freeway. Rescue trucks couldn't get to many of them.

Poilce say sending more vechiles up the iced over ramp could have made it worse, so they're advising people to wait it out until it thaws out. There was no word if anyone was injured.

Just as the freezing rain started late last night, two people crashed head-on at FM 3093 and North Frazier. The drivers were trapped in their cars after the wreck. They had to be rescued, but they couldn't be airlifted to the hospital because helicopters weren't operating. Both drivers were listed in critical condition.