Surge of snow-related car accidents over the weekend

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Grant County Sheriff’s Office/courtesy photo A blizzard caused dozens of unwary motorists to slide into ditches or into snow banks over the weekend.

GRANT COUNTY — Law enforcement agencies throughout the region responded this weekend to calls from dozens of cars, trucks and semis stuck in berms, unable to get off icy hills or buried beneath drifting dunes of snow as a blizzard bore down on Washington.

“Our deputies were fantastic this weekend, sometimes putting themselves at risk to help others get out safely,” said Grant County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Kyle Foreman.

While criminal calls fell precipitously during the winter storm, the number of calls from stuck vehicles skyrocketed last weekend, spreading agency resources and personnel thin and increasing response times. In Grant County, this included a number of vehicles stuck on state Route 24 for hours while waiting for deputies and emergency vehicles to plow their way to trapped drivers, Foreman said.

Some of the stranded vehicles officers responded to were caused by inexperienced drivers or overwhelming inclement weather, but others were likely caused by drivers overconfident in their vehicles or who intentionally drove around concrete barriers blocking closed highways, Foreman said. The simplest thing drivers can do to stay out of a harrowing situation that requires intervention from emergency vehicles, Foreman said, is to take agency warnings to heart.

“When we tell people to stay off the road, there’s usually a reason,” Foreman said.

If it’s necessary to commute during a blizzard, drivers should make sure their cars are properly equipped with emergency preparedness kits in case a vehicle becomes stranded, Foreman said. Essential components of a proper kit would include a warm blanket, a first aid kit, water and food — in addition, road flares can also help first responders locate lost vehicles in whiteout conditions.

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