By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Snow blowing across roads caused several area accidents and miserable conditions Sunday as Mother Nature just wouldn’t let winter go.
Winds gusting to 48 mph hampered travel in this area and much of central and western Nebraska, a good three and a half weeks after the first day of spring.
Interstate 80 from Kearney west to Lexington was closed for a time Sunday afternoon.
Chase County Sheriff Kevin Mueller said a number of stranded motorists west of Imperial on Highway 6 kept his office busy with calls Sunday.
Most vehicle problems came in from the Sand Draw west to the Colorado state line, he said.
“We had reports of vehicles sliding off the road into the ditch,” he said.
Five or six vehicles were still stranded in the ditches when Mueller drove into work from the west Monday morning.
On Sunday, a few miles east of Imperial near mile marker 29 on Highway 6, poor driving conditions caused a semi-trailer carrying a load of potatoes to skid off the road.
The call came into the sheriff’s office about 1:15 p.m. from a passerby who came upon the accident, Mueller said.
Jose Arriaga, 51, of Dallas, Texas, was operating the semi-trailer owned by Avila Trucking of Mitchell when he hit a patch of slushy snow, Mueller said.
The trailer jackknifed and slid into the west-bound lane, onto the shoulder and eventually turned over on its side on the north side of the highway.
The sheriff said Arriaga was able to climb out of the rig on his own, and was uninjured. He was not transported to the hospital.
On Monday, the sheriff’s office was back out on the scene for several hours to assist with traffic control as attempts were made to set the rig back up and salvage some of the load.
That proved unsuccessful, Mueller said.
In the attempts to set the rig upright by Sinner’s Body Shop, the load of potatoes shifted and the trailer buckled in the middle. At that point, efforts couldn’t proceed until the potatoes were removed. To do that, one side of the trailer had to be cut open using equipment from Frenchman Valley Produce, the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department and Schultz Construction.
Mueller estimates the rig was a total loss, along with its contents.
Imperial Public Works Supt. Pat Davison was out himself to help plow some of Imperial’s more traveled streets mid-afternoon Sunday as they kept filling in with drifts.
He said crews cleared both East and West 12th St., along with East 9th St., several times Sunday to move out the drifts.
Earlier Sunday, the electricity in parts of Imperial was out for about an hour and a half from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
Davison said the system lost two circuits from the high winds. Some of the problem may have been caused by tree branches slapping into the electrical wires, so they cut down several branches west of Broadway Sunday during the storm.
Part of the reason the power was out that long was because the crew was checking throughout town making sure there weren’t poles or wires down before turning the power back on, Davison said.
On Monday, the crew did locate several wires with burn marks, he said.
The power outage affected the Miracle Mile, most customers west of Broadway and other areas in the north part of Imperial, he said.
Most all customers in Imperial experienced some power “blinks” during the storm.
No school Monday
School Supt. Brad Schoeppey said unsafe driving conditions in the country caused him to make the decision to call off school all day Monday.
He said there were reports of drifting across several rural roads, especially those running east and west.
He also experienced icy roads on his own drive into Imperial from Champion.
Monday was just the second snow day taken by Chase County Schools. On one other date, CCS had a 10 a.m. late start.