Up to 20 tractor-trailers jackknifed on Interstate 77 and Interstate 74 during a major snowstorm Thursday.
According to the director for Surry County Emergency Services, John Shelton, the trucks jackknifed while trying to avoid other accidents and stalled vehicles that went idle because of snow accumulations.
“It was bizarre. We saw up to 20 trucks who jackknifed,” said Shelton.
According to Shelton, EMS and other response teams would try to clear the vehicles so N.C. Department of Transportation crews could use equipment to clear roads. The process wasn’t moving as quickly as accumulations of snow that impeded response teams.
“Passenger vehicles were so poorly equipped and should not have been on the roadways in a snowstorm to begin with. We had accident after accident,” he said. “We couldn’t believe that so many people were out driving during a snowstorm.”
When the motorists were rescued, some of them were transported to shelters. In Elkin, a warming shelter was opened at the First Baptist Church.
“It’s probably was one of the largest snowstorms we’ve had since 1993. In ‘93, we experienced similar difficulties, but it was more of a shelter placement event. Backups from Virginia down to our county ultimately left people stranded needing shelters,” reflected Shelton.
“This year, we were prepared for the snowstorm, but we didn’t expect the unusual amount of people that were on the interstate,” said Shelton in describing the vehicles who attempted to outrace the winter storm.
Shelton said the snow event came in strongly and emergency officials were told that Surry County would be hit with an additional four to five inches on top of the dozen it already had received.
“We did what we had to do. We had four National Guard Humvees at the event start. As it progressed, 16 Humvees made way and added to the response,” said Shelton.
Shelton said that emergency crews and other support teams spent time transporting people to and from medical facilities.
Shelton indicated that state DOT had to shift the majority of its resources to clear the interstate. That meant other DOT roads had a delay in plowing.
Despite numerous accidents, Shelton said no fatalities happened during the event.
“One of the reasons we have fatalities in smaller snowstorms is the false sense of security that you can develop as a driver. You tend to blast through snow when you see little amounts of it. You are not going (with increased speed) in large snowstorms because you’re not moving quickly,” he said.
Shelton disclosed that emergency officials met Wednesday consisting of fire, EMS, the Red Cross, county health officials, and emergency management personnel from the state.
“I have to brag and thank all the agencies in the county and everyone involved. We have a team of people from the sheriff’s office to highway patrol who are so committed and so willing to give a helping hand,” said Shelton.
On Saturday afternoon, Shelton was back home with his family attempting to recharge and enjoy time off.
“You never know in this business though. At any minute the pager goes off and then you’re out the door again,” he said.
Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.