DOTD crews didn't spread sand, salt to prevent bridge from icing

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wwltv.com

Posted on January 27, 2014 at 8:08 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 11 at 11:49 AM

Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
Email: kmoore@wwltv.com | Twitter: @katiecmoore

NEW ORLEANS -- Last Friday night, hundreds of people were stuck on New Orleans-area bridges after accidents shut them down.

It was a dangerous situation for drivers and emergency crews alike.

"It was bad,” said New Orleans resident Shonda Evans.

Saturday morning, stranded drivers on the Green Bridge to St. Bernard Parish were still waiting to get their cars.

Friday night the scene was even worse. A pile-up of cars on the icy surface shut down the bridge at 6:30 p.m.

“They had firefighters, they had police officers, but you had to walk down the bridge to get to the ambulances,” Evans said.

New Orleans EMS says their ambulances couldn't get through and couldn't get up the slick surface.

They had to walk up the bridge to tend to those who were hurt and carry them down. All nine people hurt had minor injuries.

“We used some resources with DOTD and Sewerage & Water Board to get some sand on the bridge and ultimately get people off the bridge, I believe, all to the St. Bernard Parish side,” said Jeffery Elder, the NDEMS medical director.

DOTD crews did not spread sand and salt to prevent the bridge from icing.

The DOTD representative said at a press conference Monday that his crews started responding to icy spots at around 6 p.m. Friday, right around the time the pile-ups began.

“And when you don't have the traffic running across the lanes to help keep the ice off the roadway, those lanes ice up and that's when we have to shut the road down,” said Fred Wetekamm of the La. DOTD.

The Green Bridge, the Crescent City Connection and the Huey P. Long Bridge were all shut down because of icy pile-ups, not to prevent them.

From 4 p.m. Saturday to 4 p.m. Sunday, EMS worked 29 separate incidents. Some, like the Crescent City Connection, had multiple crashes involved.

Statewide, state police worked 744 crashes, six of them fatal – more than triple their normal volume.

As for Tuesday's expected storm, DOTD says they will try to better get ahead of it with one warning:

“We have enough (material). It depends on how many times we have to reapply that material,” Wetekamm said. “The more vehicles are on the roadway, the more often we have to apply the materials.”

The moral of that story: stay off the roads. DOTD wouldn't say exactly when deicing crews were sent out metro-wide, where they went, or where the trucks were responding from.

They say resources were available and roads were treated according to “ever-changing weather reports.”

For this week's storm, the Orleans DOTD rep said each district has three or four trucks ready to go.

 

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