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December 27, 2012
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Black ice causes multiple wrecks

Black ice caused a series of accidents throughout western Nevada County Thursday morning, resulting in a massive road closure.

A pick-up truck slid off Highway 20 near the intersection of Dow Road due to ice on the road.

The vehicle crashed into a power pole just after 7 a.m., causing it to fall across Highway 20, said California Highway Patrol officer Justin Barnthouse.

The fallen utility pole caused the entire stretch of Highway 20 between Dow Road and Interstate 80 to be closed until at least 10 p.m. as of press time, according to Caltrans District 3’s Twitter feed.

The repairs took longer than anticipated as the road was originally predicted to reopen around noon, said Gilbert Mhotes-Chan.

The delay was attributed to the need to replace the utility pole and the unanticipated complexity of reattaching wires to the replacement pole, Mhotes-Chan said.

The Highway 20 accident was one of five collisions that occurred between 3 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., all due to icy conditions, Barnthouse said.

Collisions continued to happen throughout the late morning with three more happening during the 10 a.m. hour, Barnthouse said.

A single-vehicle accident occurred at North Bloomfield-Graniteville Road and Coyote Street, Barnthouse said.

Another vehicle slid off the road at the corner of Squirrel Creek Road and Adam Avenue and crashed into bushes, and yet another incident transpired at the intersection of Highway 49 and Brandy City Road in Sierra County.

No major injuries were reported in any of the accidents, Barnthouse said.

Ice forming on roadways, known as “black ice,” can often be disguised by its translucence, blending in with the background.

Ice can form on road surfaces any time the air temperature drops below 40 degrees, especially when it’s windy, according to the Caltrans website. Bridges and underpasses can be especially hazardous.

Any low or shaded area surrounded by landscape or with nearby source of water can have icy spots, the website states. Late night and early morning hours are especially dangerous since moisture has had a change to accumulate.

However, Barnthouse said the main problem is the pace at which people are driving.

“People are driving too fast for the conditions,” he said. “They are driving normal speeds without taking into account the ice.”

Generally speaking, people should take 10 to 20 percent off the speed limit posted for a given stretch of roadway when it’s icy, Barnthouse said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.


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The Union Updated Dec 28, 2012 08:24AM Published Dec 30, 2012 04:04PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.