Monday, January 2 saw an exceptionally widespread, damaging and tragic road icing event/accident outbreak across multiple states, caused by a minor snowfall event. Numerous major pileups occured on interstates and highways with several fatalities and countless injuries in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia and Michigan. This event is one of the largest/worst in the US that I have come across during the past three years, and will warrant some data collection and a in-depth write-up after the full impact can be assessed. I will begin work tomorrow collecting information and data on this event, followed by an eventual case study to be posted here at a later date.
Preliminary notes: It appears at this time that the snowfall amounts associated with the worst accident numbers were very low, many cases an inch or less. Areas that saw higher accumulations generally experienced fewer accidents. This is consistent with previous data which shows that lighter snow events cause more severe accident outbreaks than bigger snowstorms. An intermittent 'squall' pattern of the precipitation also appears to be a major factor in the severity of this event. Much of the snow fell in intense, narrow bands, resulting in patchy, treacherous icing that drivers encountered suddenly.
Here are just a few of the news reports that have come in so far today:
As of 11:55PM Monday night, the reported death toll for this outbreak is at 4. That number will likely rise as more reports come in in the next 2 to 3 days. Stay tuned for updates on this event as more information is collected.