Drivers struggle with fog, icy roads

Terry Henry, of Summit Point, W.Va., stands along the fishing pier in the afternoon fog over Lake Frederick near Front Royal on Friday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

A combination of freezing temperatures, fog and black ice sent dozens of vehicles skidding off area roads Friday morning.

School openings in Warren County were delayed and law enforcement officials responded to dozens of crash sites.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office reported working with state police on 11 crashes, nine of them involving personal injuries and two with property damage only. Lt. Warren Gosnell, head of Frederick County’s traffic division, said in a written statement that the first crash was recorded at 5:12 a.m. and the last at 8:52 a.m.

Gosnell said the weather conditions deceived many drivers into thinking the roadway surface was merely wet instead of coated with slippery ice.

“Now add in the fog that has reduced the distance the driver can perceive a hazard ahead, thus reducing available reaction time,” Gosnell said. “That driver now has to brake or steer harder in an attempt to avoid the threat because it is now much closer (than) when it is first seen.

“With those extreme maneuvers and heavier braking, that black ice will defeat the efforts to avoid that collision most of the time as there is simply not enough road grip and not enough time to recover from the slide or the skid.”

Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron said his agency recorded 17 crashes on the slick roads. McEatheron said he had no information on whether there were any injuries.

“That was pretty interesting the way it developed, patchy areas, because you couldn’t see it was just slick,” McEathron said of the black ice.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office posted a notice on the agency Facebook page urging drivers to keep their distance from other vehicles.

Shenandoah County Capt. Wesley Dellinger said his agency had recorded “a half dozen accidents with minor skidding off roadways,” adding that state police had also responded to “numerous” accidents on Interstate 81 and primary and secondary roads.

Dellinger said conditions improved considerably by mid-morning due to the efforts of road crews from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“VDOT was able to get out and treat the roads fairly quickly once we received the initial reports,” Dellinger said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com