Black ice makes a mess of traffic
By Robin Scott
Early morning precipitation in the area led to the development of black ice and hazardous driving conditions. By early afternoon, reports of motor vehicle accidents on Highway 87 North near Perico, numbered six, keeping the Dallam County Sheriff’s Office, DPS Troopers and EMS very busy.
Black ice refers to the thin coating of glazed ice on roads that forms when temperatures are at freezing or below, or even when temperatures are above freezing on bridges, underpasses or elevated roadways. The asphalt of the road, underneath the thin coating of ice, shows through, giving way to the term “black” ice. Black ice is often more slick than other forms of roadway ice. Drivers may never see the ice until they are driving on it, or even in a skid, making it an extremely dangerous driving surface.
Dallam County Sheriff Bruce Scott noted, “We had three accidents south of Perico, one about three miles east of Texline on FM 296 and two vehicles off in the ditch in the center median; all within a mile or two north and south of Perico.” He added, “I believe there was one person injured who was transported to the hospital.”
According to Sheriff Scott, the Clayton Fire Department had an EMS unit in Texline. He stated, “Clayton staged an ambulance in Texline because Texline and Dalhart were out on two different wreck scenes.” The Dallam County Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction along with DPS on Highway 87 from the New Mexico border to 11th Street in Dalhart. The Dalhart Police Department also shares jurisdiction for the portion of Highway 87 that rests within the city limits. Often, all three agencies respond together at motor vehicle accidents.
Sheriff Scott also noted, “I first drove up Highway 54 East. It was slick in spots but there wasn’t much traffic. I then drove out Highway 385, and it was very slick the whole way, but again, there was very little traffic, so we didn’t see any wrecks out that way.” The wrecks were attributed to both road conditions and the drivers’ inability to maneuver on the roads. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, staying off of roads until they have been plowed or sanded is best, but if driving is necessary, drivers must use extreme caution, slow down and allow three times the stopping distance as needed for dry road conditions.
TxDOT made it out to the Perico area by early afternoon to assess the conditions and lay down sand on bridges, hills and intersections. By 4:00 p.m., driving conditions worsened with heavy snow and strong winds that diminished visibility. Sheriff Scott noted, “We had two deputies out, and DPS had two Troopers out.” The officers stayed out most of the day trying to encourage drivers to slow down and provide warning that the road conditions were less than ideal.