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Freezing rain causes multiple traffic woes on county highways

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 12:02 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 10:45 p.m. CST
Caption
Motorists in Ogle County have had to navigate winter road conditions already several times this year. Photo by Chris Johnson

Portions of three state highways were closed for several hours in Ogle County Jan. 10 while emergency crews dealt with the dozens of accidents caused by freezing rain.

Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn said Monday morning that he did not yet have a count on how many accidents occurred from mid-afternoon Friday until late into the evening.

"It was probably well over 50," he said. "There were no serious injuries that I know of but at least of couple of people went to the hospital."

Although the temperature Friday was several degrees above freezing, the rain turned to ice as soon as it hit the pavement, which remained much colder after several days below zero earlier in the week. Deputies had their hands full as vehicles collided or slipped off the road in rapid succession.

Harn said deputies working that day extended their shifts by several hours and those on the night shift came in several hours early.

The sheriff's department was assisted by the Illinois State Police, Oregon Police Department, and Illinois Conservation Police.

Crashes throughout the afternoon and evening led to portions of Ill. 72, Ill. 2, and Ill. 64 being closed, with traffic backing up for extended periods.

With local wreckers all at crash scenes, Harn told telecommunicators to call Dixon-based tow services for help.

The biggest back-up closed Ill. 2 near Castle Rock State Park for about four hours when a semi jack-knifed and struck a snow plow in the "cut" around 5:30 p.m., Harn said.

Cars were backed up for a mile and a half on each side of the accident, Harn said.

"There were 40 cars on this (north) side of the accident," he said. "There were probably at least that many on the other side."

One of the vehicles caught in the traffic stoppage was a Rock Falls High School bus bringing players to a basketball game in Oregon. The game was canceled and rescheduled. Harn said the road was reopened around 9:30 p.m.

Reports of cars sliding off the icy roads began around 2:30 p.m. when two cars went into the ditch on Ill. 64 approximately four miles east of Oregon.

That was soon followed by a semi versus car crash in the same vicinity.

Harn said the semi ended up in its side in the ditch. A driver from Maggio's towing service, Rockford, deemed the icy conditions too treacherous to pull the semi out on Friday, and it remained in the ditch until Saturday afternoon, he said.

Ill. 64 was closed for a time due to that crash.

The road was also closed later in the evening when accidents occurred on Liberty Hill just west of Oregon.

Another semi slid off the road on Ill. 2 near Meridian Road north of Byron when the driver was trying to avoid an accident that had already occurred. A snow plow struck the semi, Harn said, causing that portion of Ill. 2 to be closed.

Ill. 72 was closed between Byron and Stillman Valley when a semi slid into the ditch near Marrill Road, quickly followed by several other vehicles whose drivers were trying to avoid the semi, he said. River Road near Lowden Park also had its share of accidents.

"There were 10 to 20 vehicles in the ditch because they couldn't get up that hill," Harn said.

According to the Illinois State Police, an Oregon fire truck responding to the crash scene on River Road ended up sliding into another vehicle.

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