Old Man Winter seems to have settled in Wise County.
A combination of precipitation and below-freezing temperatures Monday led to multiple accidents and another round of school closures Tuesday.
Freezing rain early Monday made roadways slick, particularly the eastbound Texas 114 bridge in Rhome and the U.S. 380 bypasses in Decatur. Several accidents were reported in those areas, and Decatur Police closed parts of the 380 bypass until sand trucks could arrive.
Although cold and wet, roads remained clear most of the day until about 5 p.m. when they began to freeze again, leading to dozens of accidents.
“It was pretty insane west of Bridgeport,” said Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard, who assisted stranded motorists on the west side of the county.
“Roads were slippery, and there was no rhyme or reason to it,” said Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis. “Of course, all the bridges were icy, but every once in awhile you’d hit black ice and start sliding with no warning.”
Wise County Communications Manager Susan Gomez said dispatch fielded 48 calls for service, all of which were minor and major accidents.
The first accidents reported were on U.S. 380 near Bridgeport and west of town – the worst of which involved a 16-year-old boy whose truck rolled four times.
Bridgeport Police Chief Randy Singleton said the teen was westbound on U.S. 380 about 6 p.m. and had just passed the entrance to the Devon gas plant when he suddenly veered to the right and ran off the road, going into a skid, according to witnesses.
The young driver tried to correct the vehicle but spun around again, traveling down the embankment, running through a fence and flipping four times. Singleton said the driver was transported from the scene by Wise County medics to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.
Medics believed the boy may have suffered a broken collarbone and other minor injuries. Singleton did not release the teen’s name.
Just before 7 p.m. two accidents were reported on Farm Road 730 South, just outside Decatur, and multiple wrecks occurred on U.S. 81/287 near Rhome, including at least three 18-wheelers that jackknifed. Rhome officers thought the highway would have to be shut down, but that was not required.
A Rhome officer said on the scanner Tuesday morning that he had responded to nine accidents overnight on 81/287 north of Farm Road 407.
Several accidents were also reported on Farm Road 2264 and on 287 near County Road 4421.
A vehicle caught fire after flipping on County Road 2048, and a house fire was reported in the 500 block of South Hitt Street in Boyd.
Travis said the fire started when a heating unit malfunctioned, but damage was limited to the furnace equipment.
“The fire department got there early and disconnected the power, which stopped the fire,” he said.
Boyd, Newark, Rhome and Cottondale fire departments responded.
Travis said he helped work three accidents and then checked on stranded motorists until after midnight.
Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said his department worked 17 wrecks Monday, starting early that morning, but no one was injured, which he said is unusual.
“Most of them were just people sliding off the road, no major deal,” he said. “It was unusual. You always have the problem of people thinking it’s not that bad and running the speed limit. If you could get them to slow down a little, you wouldn’t have as many wrecks.”
He said it was icy in Decatur until about 8:30 p.m., but his officers worked only two wrecks after that time.
By 10 p.m. Monday, most local school districts had delayed school, but by 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, all districts had closed for the day. Several playoff basketball games had also been rescheduled. (See the story on page 9.)
Beard said the south part of the county was still icy Tuesday morning, as well as Farm Road 920 from Bridgeport to the county line. The rest of the county had patches of ice, especially in intersections and on bridges.
The area remained in a winter weather advisory until 6 p.m. Tuesday, and some parts of Wise County saw snow and sleet in the afternoon. Wednesday’s high was expected to be 46.