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Crews caught by surprise and short on help during Wednesday's snowfall, leading to multiple crashes

Here's why roads weren't treated
I-71/75 in Kentucky was blocked at Richwood Road
Posted at 1:10 PM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 19:48:07-05

CINCINNATI — What started as a typical, small December snowfall turned into chaos on Tri-State roadways Wednesday morning.

Early morning accumulation ranged from a dusting to just under an inch in some areas. It turned roadways wet and icy in some spots. That led to slick conditions for drivers. Crashes peppered the area on all the major highways and roadways. Cincinnati police were so busy they urged drivers to exchange information instead of calling 911 if they were in a fender bender and weren't hurt.

Southbound I-71/75 was shut down or had crawling traffic for hours at the split. Multiple on- and-off-ramps suffered the same fate. WCPO 9 News crews saw few plow trucks out in Northern Kentucky, where roadways were hit hardest, with some even noting that they were the first tires to go through parts of major roadways in the area.

So what happened? Why was a 1/2-inch of snow such an issue? The roads weren't fully pre-treated, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

"According to what we were monitoring, we weren't expecting anything significant," a spokesperson for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said. "We were prepared to spot treat, but saw more than (we) expected. We had our state crews out, but didn't call our contractors in."

Road crews with the Ohio Department of Transportation blamed a driver shortage.

Like other businesses, ODOT has been seeking workers, especially drivers. Mandi Dillon, a public information officer with ODOT, said the fewer number of drivers meant it took longer to clear all roadways and managers were out driving trucks.

"We are still hiring drivers in many of our garages," Dillon said. "Just like so many other industries, we are seeing a decline in the number of applicants available. This does affect our number of plow drivers, but our managers have scheduled routes for cleaning accordingly. As always we take our snow and ice operations very serious, so we have crews scheduled to clear roads around the clock when necessary. We will always get our roads clear, but with fewer drivers it may take longer."

Dillon said there were 24 trucks on the road in Hamilton County Wednesday morning, with six working exclusively on I-75. Our reporting in 2019 showed Hamilton County usually has 27 trucks on the road during a snow storm.

In Florence, there were major issues on Industrial Road. Don Delaney, who works at nearby A.Y.S.V. Foodservice, wants KYTC to make Industrial Ave. a priority route since so many businesses rely on it to be safe for semis.

"We let two vehicles out at seven, and one of them was in an accident right here on Industrial [Road]," said Delaney. "It's putting everyone two, three hours behind that we had to pay," said Delaney. "The state should have been on top of it."

"It seems like Industrial Road is always terrible, always the worst road in the city," said Delaney.

To see a list of Northern Kentucky priority routes so you can prepare for the next snowfall, click here.

Road crews will get a break through the rest of the week. Temps will reach the 40s this afternoon, melting the remaining snow. Highs will be in the 50s on Thursday. Friday brings a different weather threat - severe storms with possible localized flooding and damaging winds.

WCPO: Latest forecast from 9 First Warning Weather
WCPO: Most roadways open after hectic morning for Tri-State drivers
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