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6:50 PM Tue, Sept. 18th

White Christmas & road issues: crashes, slide-offs keep law enforcement busy (PHOTOS)

The view of Prescott on Christmas Day from Senator Highway reveals a “White Christmas.”

Photo by Tim Wiederaenders.

The view of Prescott on Christmas Day from Senator Highway reveals a “White Christmas.”

The winter storm that rumbled through northern Arizona this past weekend kept law enforcement officials busy with a nearly 169 percent increase in calls and many inches of snow.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety received 2,795 calls for Dec. 24-25, Public Information Officer Raul Garcia reported Monday for its AZDPS Flagstaff Operations Communication Center. The weekend prior, it took 1,041 calls for help.

Of those, DPS troopers responded to 362 calls between 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 25, in northern Arizona. 

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Snow depth Sunday morning, Dec. 25, was 7.5 inches for the Prescott area.

The National Weather Service issued some totals for the storm on Sunday: Flagstaff, 14.7 inches; Williams, 13.5 inches; and Prescott 7.5 inches.

Related to the storm, the calls for help included:

• Injury and non-injury crashes: 161

• Slide-offs: 201 

• Tow trucks called: 134 

Dwight D’Evelyn of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, on Sunday morning, said: “Most of our calls (Saturday) night involved assisting DPS with State Road issues as their crews were stretched to the limit. We had several calls regarding stranded motorists who became frustrated with the I-40 closure and attempted to drive out of Williams on Perkinsville Road to access Highway 89.

“We also had numerous calls from drivers who tried various side roads along I-40 and either got stuck or lost. Deputies assisted motorists whose vehicles slid off the roadway along Iron Springs Road between Skull Valley and Prescott – at one point there was at least a 50- to 80-car back up heading into Prescott. We had several non-injury accidents along Williamson Valley Road (Saturday) night.”

Some roads were still impassable Sunday due to snow and vehicles blocking, he said Sunday, adding: “At this time, Public Works is only able to plow the main roadways. We ask everyone else to stay put and be patient regarding road conditions in local neighborhoods.”

The traffic incidents varied from highway to highway:

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Vehicles stuck across Interstate 40, in several crashes, block traffic near Williams in a 29-vehicle pileup on Christmas Eve.

• Troopers investigated five crashes between mileposts 161 and 163 eastbound along Interstate 40, between 2 and 6 p.m., near Williams, Arizona. A total of 29 vehicles were involved in those crashes.

A severe winter storm and the slippery conditions it created, Garcia stated, in combination with vehicles traveling at speeds greater than reasonable and prudent for the conditions, were the contributing factors.

I-40 was closed by state troopers along with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) due to the crashes.

Nine vehicles involved were commercial trucks that required heavy duty tow vehicles to remove them. The heavy duty tow vehicles had difficulty reaching the crash scene due to weather, backed up traffic and the numerous calls for service they received, DPS reported.

• Highway 87 northbound at milepost 283 – three-vehicle crash kept the roadway closed from 2:20 to 3:33 p.m. Saturday.

• Highway 89A, north and southbound, over Mingus Mountain was closed for crashes and heavy snow from mileposts 331-343 from 2:48 p.m. Saturday to 9:11 a.m. Sunday. The closure was extended to milepost 345.

• Interstate 17 northbound at milepost 313 was closed for a crash from 3:18 to 4:31 p.m. Saturday.

• Highway 87, at milepost 275, there was a multi-vehicle crash that led to the road’s closure from 3:20 p.m. to 4:03 p.m. Saturday.

• I-40, east and westbound, from mileposts 146-195 was closed for multiple slide-offs at 3:39 p.m. Saturday. All lanes reopened at 4:26 a.m. Sunday.

• I-17 southbound at milepost 322 (Munds Park) was closed for a crash from 5:13 p.m. Saturday to 1:11 a.m. Sunday. The closure extended from milepost 299 to 340.

• I-40 westbound was closed at milepost 144 for a crash from 7:21 a.m. to 8:22 a.m. Sunday.

Main roadways are now clear, with ADOT and the Weather Service reporting no watches, warnings or hazards. To learn more about winter travel and snow play safety in Arizona, visit: http://www.azdps.gov/Information/winter_travel/ or call 511.

Portions of this article first appeared on dCourier.com over the weekend.