After the weather changed from what supposed to be a warm, pleasant week to a blustery, snowy one, the weather’s impact on road conditions made for a busy weekend for Lacombe Fire Department.
Fire Chief Ed van Delden said that the fire department has faced a rash of calls in the last week, particularly on Jan. 29 – 31.
He said that between these two days, the fire department was dispatched to more than 10 rollovers, most of them on the QEII Hwy.
van Delden added that fire assistance was not needed at all of the incidents and the department was not required to respond on scene to all the dispatches.
He said that the driving conditions on Jan. 29 – 31 were not particularly poor, but winter driving conditions did exist. Prior to last week, Central Alberta drivers had been enjoying bare, dry roads and prime driving conditions but van Delden said that people need to remember that driving conditions can change day-to-day in Alberta, and drivers need to stay vigilant.
“I get a sense from some of the people that have hit the ditch that they ought to be able to drive 110 (kilometres) all year round. Really, that is the maximum speed.”
Most dangerous are the roads that are marginally bad, said van Delden. He reasoned that when the roads are truly treacherous, drivers ‘get it’, and slow down accordingly.
“When it’s really storming out there, we get it. People slow down and drive respectfully and responsibly.”
But when roads are just a little bit below ideal, it catches drivers unaware. This is particularly true when the road conditions change from good to not quite as good.
“We are especially vulnerable, when (road conditions) change. We are a little slow to pick up on the change.”
As usual, van Delden said that slowing down is the best way to deal with winter road conditions. He added that while there were several rollovers when the road conditions changed, there were also a lot of drivers who navigated them without issue and it is up to the drivers to react responsibly to changing road conditions.
“If you see snow blowing across the roads, there is likely to be a patch somewhere that is worse than what you are currently driving on. I think it’s fair to expect there will be icy sections and the road won’t be consistent or the same all the way.”
Lacombe Fire Department responded to two rollovers on the QEII Hwy. on Jan. 29. and eight rollovers on Jan. 31. van Delden said that in all of the incidents Lacombe Fire Department responded to, fire crew responsibilities were limited mostly to preparing patients for transport and cleaning up crash sites.
While extraction was needed at some of the rollovers, use of hydraulic tools was not necessary and mostly crews just needed to provide small assistance, like digging snow away from doors. Some of the vehicle occupants in the crashes sustained injuries and were transported to hospital for treatment but most of those injuries were superficial and none were life-threatening, said van Delden.