Slick Roads Surprise Bitterroot Drivers Tuesday
The combination of light rain, freezing temperatures and a brisk wind created an ice rink on Highway 93 between Stevensville and Florence late Tuesday morning, January 12, causing numerous auto accidents, according to Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton.
At about 10:30 a.m., he issued an alert on the Sheriff's Office cellphone app for motorists to use an alternate route because multiple accidents had closed the road. All lanes were blocked in some places.
But the wrecks were not confined to that stretch of highway. “Due to the moisture and a little bit of weather we're getting today along with the fact that it's just cold enough that those paved surfaces are starting to get really slick and ice up,” said Holton. “We've got a number of crashes all the way from Darby to Florence, and a couple of them are pretty severe. It looks like we've kind of got them scattered all over."
However, because of the heavy traffic on US 93 between Stevensville and Missoula, more accidents happened there, some requiring ambulance response.
Why all the wrecks? This winter has been very mild with few days of icy roads in the Bitterroot and Holton figures that drivers were simply unprepared to suddenly be driving on ice.
Unfortunately, this is the beginning of a larger storm system which has been approaching Montana from the Pacific coast. So, drivers, beware! As Holton told us, "We're asking now that people just really remember it's January in the Bitterroot and we really have to slow down and take that extra few minutes of caution because there's very little traction on any paved surface at this point.”
The National Weather Service forecasts 100 percent chance of rain or rain and snow mixed through Wednesday as the storm blows through the area with winds approaching 35-40 miles per hour. And then, Thursday and Friday, the skies will return to partly cloudy conditions.