WICHITA, Kan. - A thin glaze of ice that formed Thursday evening caught many Wichita drivers and transportation workers off guard. The drizzle and below freezing temperatures were just enough to create conditions that led to several accidents in the Wichita metro area, and forced the closing of some highway ramps."We were a little surprised and had our crews called out about 7:30 p.m. and pulled more people out about 9:30 p.m. and, in fact, some stayed out all night," said Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Hein.
Hein says that wasn’t in their plans and that the weather service they use was not forecasting the ice. All it took was a slight mist in the air and the freezing temps to make roads hazardous.
"There were a lot of accidents,” he said. “There were slide-offs, rollovers, so there were a lot of problems with it. It caught people unaware, and it caught us a little bit unaware."
Hein says KDOT typically pre-treats with brine when they have enough advance warning. All that could be done was use a sand and salt mixture on some roads after the freeze. "We were a little surprised, as I think most people were," Hein said.
Sedgwick County and the city of Wichita didn’t pre-treat streets and roads either. One city officer says this is what happens with such a slight chance of ice—a thin glaze at that—predicted, calling it a nuisance.