Bad Weather Accident Blog

May 19, 2020

More California Rain Dangerous for Drivers and Residents

Slick, rainy streets.
Driving on dangerous rain-slicked roads
Driving on dangerous rain-slicked roads California has suffered incessant rains in past weeks. The state's experiencing another slow-moving storm. Thursday and Friday the state got dumped on with rain again. The forecast amount for the weekend an expected 2 to 4 inches in Los Angeles. The foothills and mountains predicted to see 6 to 8 inches. It might sound as if the rain forecast didn't amount to a lot. Since in this case, every inch of rain matter's it does. The New Round of Rains. Today rain came and fell in buckets in Northern California. The storm had wind gusts reaching 199 miles per hour. Monday new rainfall records did get set in the state. In San Jose, San Francisco and of course Sacramento hold new records. Residents have seen enough rain in recent weeks that it seems like it won't end. It will end, but the damage may reach exorbitant costs in this case for both motorists and property owners. The latest round of storms produced some flooding of course. In fact, it caused water to surge down the Don Pedro Dam. Officials say it's the second time in 20 years the spillway got used. In this case, it's used to keep the reservoir from overflowing. Tuolumne River's close to reaching its limits to in fact become dangerous. Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson stated residents. He said residents seek higher ground. Santa Cruz County's in fact, seeing the near flood stages. Along the coast reaching the Feather River Basin and inland could see flash floods. In fact, in this case, could see evacuations enforced. According to meteorologists, the Central Valley could see 3 inches of rain. But, the mountains could see 10 inches from the storm. This storm in this case, of course, adds to the Oroville Dam issues. Problems that resulted in 180,000 residents ordered to evacuate last week. The San Joaquin River has, of course, reached the danger stage officials said. Sacramento assistant sheriff stated that they did warn residents. They told residents to get ready to evacuate. He stated that it's the first time in 20 years. Are These the Worst California Rains? It's reported the relentless rain happens in California about every 200 years. One of the recorded events occurred in 1861-1862. These storms occurred for 43 days. The great flood occurred over 150 years ago. Across the state, weather-related problems have become too familiar. Mudslides, closing roads, flash floods and other issues it's dangerous. The Carmel River and the Salinas River reaching flood stages. Other places, of course, have the same rain-related dangers. It's dangerous for residents and drivers. Rain soaked highways, heavy winds, and debris can cause major accidents. Crashes, in this case, can cause severe injury of course. Drivers need to use extra caution on rain-soaked roads. Driving in inclement weather tips. The large populated areas of Los Angeles and Orange Counties crashes increase. San Francisco, San Diego, of course, has the same problem. Rain, in this case, makes for hazardous driving conditions in California. Traffic accident reports increase in inclement weather of course. But in this case, the rain is a lot more than the ground can handle. Falling trees, sliding rocks, and dirt can cause driving hazards. Each roadway in the state, of course, has its unique problems because of the amount of inclement weather. So drivers need to stay alert to avoid dangerous spots on the road. In this case, they need to watch for debris, other vehicles, and warning road signs. All across California, the days of rain caused havoc. Since the ground's over saturated, trees falling and some roads damaged.  

Jan 5, 2019

California Weather and Icy Roadways

Ice machines pictured in front of a store covered in snow during a storm.
Ice machines pictured in front of a store covered in snow during a storm. An Unlikely But Often Dangerous Weather Event. For people residing or passing through Southern California, snow and ice are not what they typically will encounter unless they drive up into the mountains during the wintertime. But amazingly, we experience black ice near the beach in areas like Rancho Palos Verdes, for example. So yeah, ice happens where ill-equipped California drivers least expect it. Ice on the roadway is one of the most dangerous weather-related situations the California driver will likely face. This more dangerous than the rain and fog driver’s in California face. This danger is because the only comparable driving hazard would be hydroplaning on wet pavement. And this leaves the driver with no control. Annually, the state of California reports that there are hundreds of serious motor vehicle accidents, with some resulting in fatalities due to the slippery condition of the roadways. In California, the total percentage of accidents related to icy conditions on the road number much lower than non-weather related crashes. But even collisions occurring on ice-slicked roads warrant concern. What is Black Ice? One of the most dangerous types of icing conditions on the roadway is called black ice. Mostly, this is water on the road that freezes once night falls. And it is often not visible to drivers at night at all. In some cases, the driver may see the ice illuminate from the headlights of the vehicle. But often, there is no time to use extra caution driving on this section of the pavement. Reducing Ice-RelatedAccidents? Having little knowledge is essential during the colder months of the year. And having access to current weather information can help. That way, drivers and their passengers can remain safer. Being prepared for icy conditions is essential when operating a motor vehicle. But drivers must also be ready for a variety of weather conditions. Any of these can result in ice forming on roadways. A few things to remember during cooler weather are: If there is fog and the temperature is near freezing 32 degrees F, heavy icing is possible on asphalt and concrete. Bridges often freeze before roadways in near-freezing temperatures. Low lying areas and valleys often have icing conditions first, since cold air settles in these areas. When the sky is clear, but there is moisture on the road, and the temperature falls below the upper 30’s, the streets can become icy. What Conditions Cause Icing on Roads if it isn’t Raining or Sleeting? Ice on roadways is not always from rain or freezing rain. The moisture can come from several other weather factors and temperatures around 32 degrees F, or freezing. Fog settling on the roadway combined with freezing temperatures can cause heavy icing. Frost, which is a collection of frozen moisture from the air that can be seen after sunset, during the night and early morning. Snow melts during traffic from the warming of the roadway and becomes liquid. But when the pavement cools, and temperatures dip during the day or at night, melted snow water will again freeze. Groundwater seepage, which then freezes on the road due to the air temperature. Freezing rain or sleet can build up causes icy road conditions because of freezing air temperatures. These conditions can occur one at a time. Or they can be a combination, with more than one making the roads hazardous. Valleys and Low Lying Areas Present Special Dangers? Valleys and low lying areas often have icy road conditions when other regions may not have any problems. This is because cold air is more substantial and denser than warm air. So this causes it to move down from higher elevations, even if it's only a minor hill. Clear nights with relatively few clouds results in colder temperatures. And surfaces like asphalt tend to cool faster than the air above. This air causes low lying areas to often be as much as 2-5 degrees colder than elevated areas a short distance away. City temperatures are warmer than rural areas. But this is usually a double-edged sword. After all, the warmth can melt freezing rain, snow, and rain from creating slick conditions. When the traffic slows and evening falls, temperatures decrease. So this causes water on the roadway to freeze when the temperatures are low. There are some areas where the air may be colder than other areas. And this is referred to in meteorology terms as thermal signatures. But it is difficult to see at night. Fog and Ice. Fog occurs when there is moisture in the air, and temperatures drop the dew point. This moisture is thick and dense, containing large amounts of water. So it is carried by the air current and passes over roadways. And if the temperature is below freezing, it can result in severe icing in a matter of minutes. And that can happen on an otherwise clear night. Cold nights with fog blanketing a roadway has resulted in numerous serious accidents. They were due to roadway icing when temperatures dipped into the mid-’30s. Frost and Icy Roadways. Frost is moisture that settles on the ground on cool and usually clear nights. So this forms with low wind speeds, generally under ten mph. But the creation of frost touches on infrared radiation. So these clouds absorb and emit, and warmer objects emit more infrared radiation. But on clear nights, the surface or ground emits infrared radiation without the clouds in which to reabsorb. So this is lost to space, resulting in the road surface and air cooling rapidly. The air away from the surface is warmer, so the increasing height of the air is called an inversion. Cloudy night inversion does not occur. This inversion is because the clouds blanket the surface by preventing the quick loss of infrared radiation or heat. Air contains unseen water vapor. That vapor condenses into visible ice crystals. And the amount of water air can provide varies with the temperature. Warmer air contains more water vapor. And if the air is cooled to the dew point, the moisture cannot be held as an invisible gas in the air. This cooling forces the water vapor to condense into drops or ice crystals falling from the sky. The ground surface is cooled to near freezing temperatures from night temperatures. And the air reaching the dew point results in frost. This frost, when the sun is out, remains unseen and melts rapidly from surfaces. All of this is from the rise in temperature or increased infrared radiation. The more vapor there is in the air, the more frost will form. So you will see it in areas with swamps, lakes, and ponds. They will have a higher density of vapor in the air and result in a thicker blanket of frost. Frost is also more prevalent in lower-lying areas than in higher elevations where wind speeds are usually lower. Generally, frost does not accumulate more than 1/16 of an inch. And while that seems like a minute amount of the ice crystals, it can create a dangerous situation on roadways where it has formed. This thin coating of ice can make it harder to stop. Also, other driving functions remain more difficult. Frost is responsible for numerous motor vehicle accidents due to the thin coating of ice on roadways it creates. Drivers should be alert to roadway conditions when the sky is basically cloud-free, and the night air temperatures are in the mid-’30s. Freezing Rain. This is rain that has frozen due to the air temperatures or nearly frozen. Also, this may be referred to as freezing rain, sleet, or drizzle. The way this occurs is because of a layer of air. Now it is below freezing near the surface. But warmer air is above freezing higher in the atmosphere. As the rain falls because the air higher is warm and passes through the temperatures that are below freezing. Then it freezes upon hitting the surface. This rain turns into a block of glazing ice on the surfaces. Glazing happens when surfaces get cooled. Glazing can make tree limbs heavy enough to snap and power lines. Areas of California can experience freezing rain. This freezing happens when the air temperatures are right and helped by low level cold. This warm rain is from the Pacific. This results in rain freezing on contact with the surface. So this makes higher elevations treacherous because of the warm Pacific weather systems. These are coming into the coast where warm rainfalls. So the air temperatures are in the area of 32 degrees. Hence, it causes freezing rain. And in higher mountain locations of the state, it often changes over to snow. High winds can result in temperatures plummeting and result in freezing surface areas. Snow and Ground Water Seepage. Groundwater in lower lying areas and melted snow in the upper elevations of California can freeze as the temperatures drop. During the day, roadways heat up due to traffic and the warmer daytime temperatures. This causes water seepage or melted snow to keep from freezing on the asphalt. Once the traffic slows and the night temperatures begin, this standing water or wet asphalt can freeze. So this results in dangerous driving conditions for motorists. Roadways made of pavement, also known as blacktop roads, heat up by absorbing heat from the sun. And this melts any ice. But as soon as dusk arrives, there is no more extended heat absorption. So the road quickly cools. And if the temperatures are freezing, the seepage or melted snow freezes. This is particularly the case if there are few clouds in the sky. But this is because cloud cover acts as an insulator during cold weather. This condition often occurs on roads that have had the snow plowed in higher elevations. And it takes place in lower elevations where there is a water source that spreads. On cold nights without cloud cover, the cold night air causes evaporation of heat from the roadway. And then with the temperatures near freezing, the wet areas turn to ice. This remains true even in low areas where cold air tends to pool. Slush? Slush is melted snow that generally affects the higher elevations in the state of California. And this is caused when snow begins to fall rapidly. Then the road surface is warm due to the sun and traffic. But when the temperatures drop quickly or because of the lack of warm air, the partially melted snow freezes. What remains is called slush. So basically, this is a mixture of snow and ice. Because it is much wetter than snow alone, it is more hazardous for drivers. Plus, it can turn to solid ice in the right temperatures. Bridges Freeze Before Roadways? Bridges often freeze before roadways become icy for one interesting reason or another. First, it may depend on the material the bridge is made from, as they usually are not covered with asphalt. But it might be concrete, which is a superior material for lasting roads. But concrete does not hold the same warmth as asphalt because of sun radiation and traffic. So this means the colder the temperature, the faster the concrete bridge will become dangerous. Bridges also do not have ground beneath them. So this leaves more room for more cold air to affect the temperature of the bridge from below, even when covered with pavement. Another factor why bridges may freeze quicker than roadways is because they might not absorb the same amount of heat. Plus, freezing rain or snow may not completely melt. Or, if it does melt, the surface does not dry because the water may have no place to drain. When night temperatures or rapidly falling temperatures occur, the surface cools fast. So this makes a perfect condition for the liquid to freeze. Air Temperature and Surface Temperature? Air temperature is generally determined using a thermometer about five feet from the ground. And often, it remains in an enclosed shelter. This is how official weather reports are decided for daily and nightly temperatures. But roadway and other surface temperatures are far different than the temperature taken above the surface. And this is since cold is more massive from moisture contained in the air. The ground temperature can be between 2 and 5 degrees cooler than the air temperature. This is why frost can occur even when the air temperature is between 35 and 37 degrees. And this is a temperature that is above freezing. During the day, the road temperature can often be warmer than the air temperature. But this is due to cars and trucks warming the surface, along with the sun’s radiation. Once the night temperature falls, and traffic decreases, the warmth of the surface decreases. And on nights that have few clouds, the surface temperature cools rapidly. Icing conditions can occur when the surface temperature hits 32 degrees. And, in that case, the air temperature may be as high as 37 degrees. Temperatures and Slippery Ice Conditions? Temperature changes during icy conditions can mean the ice changes and can become more slippery. This warming happens because of the scientific way ice is formed on surfaces. Ice has a thin layer of water on the outside, even when the temperatures are below freezing. This layer of water makes the ice slippery. And it is thickest when the temperature nears freezing. And then the ice thins when the temperature well below 32 degrees. This creates a condition where the ice is the most slippery when the temperatures are between 26 and 32 degrees. When the temperature reaches single digits, and below 0 degrees, the ice becomes less slippery. Motorists should be cautious when the air temperature is between 32 and 26 degrees. And this is since the ice on roadways will be the most dangerous. What are Some Other Effects? Trees and Objects Trees near roadways can cause shading of the surface as well as hills and other objects. And this can result in the potential icing of roads. Trees that overhang on roadways or objects that cover the street can block the loss of infrared heating from the sun. Frost is commonly seen on grass blades and other surfaces like roads and driveways. But maybe not, if the car was parked underneath a carport. This is because the roof of the carport would have reduced the amount of heat loss or air containing moisture. The other side of this is roadways that do become icy and have tree cover may remain icy much later into the day. This is because the tree cover is shielding the pavement from absorbing infrared heat from the sun. So until the sun moves to a location where the roadway can absorb the heat, it remains icy. Because drivers may not consider this situation. And this might last later into the day or even all day. This is where motorists can hit unexpected areas of ice protected by shade. So this leads to car accidents that are often fatal. Night Temperatures and Icing? Nights that are clear and cold can result in the surface losing heat quickly. And this generally occurs within the first three or four hours after sunset. The temperatures can even begin falling before sunset on surfaces such as roadway areas that have shade from trees and other objects. In colder temperatures, this can create icing conditions on these parts of the roadway earlier in the day. And the temperature of the surface will continue to drop more rapidly than other areas if there are no clouds or fog. Temperatures will fall slowly during the night and be the lowest near sunrise or a short time after sunrise. Nights that have fog will have fewer ice conditions on surfaces than clear nights. This is because the mist acts as a thermal blanket. But the nights that have icing remain the largest threat between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. The threat of Roadway Ice Tips? During months of cool or cold weather, motorists may be safer using some of the information above. Clear Sky: When the sky is clear when the weather is cold, especially at night, the night temperatures can rapidly fall near or after sunset. Monitoring local weather channels can help to determine clear skies and nighttime temperatures. Thermometers observe official weather temperatures. And these remain approximately 5 feet from the surface. So this means surface temperatures can be several degrees colder. If the air temperature is 37 degrees, the surface temperature can be 32 degrees or freezing. So this means moisture in the air or rain can freeze on contact with the surface, or shortly after contact. Some websites have real-time weather and surface temperature information for the state of California. So motorists can use them to determine if their location or one they will travel too has issues. At least now, you can see if there is rain, frost, snow, or ice on the roadways. Using the temperatures, cloud, fog, or clear skies, motorists can also determine possible driving conditions. Understanding Weather Patterns: Fog is something motorists should pay close attention to during days of cold weather. When the temperature is below the mid-’30s, and there is fog. Mist can travel over roadway surfaces and leave large amounts of ice quickly. So be especially careful in wet, swampy areas, or river valleys. When the roads become icy, some damage in the streets covers over with shade from the sun. And icy roads late at night may mean iced roads, or black ice until early in the morning.  And in some cases, ice may remain in this area of the roadway all day, such as has taken place in Palos Verdes, CA. For example, when temperatures stay in the 30’s ice can develop. Unforeseen objects: During icy conditions on the roadway, exercise extreme caution at all times. After all, the potential for unexpected objects such as animals means less stopping time. This combination has the potential for fatal accidents. Ice sheets can form on the road surfaces in parts of the Golden State. Icy conditions reduce reaction times. Vehicle control remains severely compromised. California drivers not accustomed to icy road conditions are at particular risk of losing control. So when traversing frosty locations, use caution. In other words, slow way down.

Apr 13, 2018

Risks Increased for Police During Inclement Weather

USDOT and Michael Ehline at Safety Hearings.
USDOT and Michael Ehline at Safety Hearings. Take a deep breath and watch the video of a crash that almost killed a state trooper in Utah. The wreck on a snowy highway almost caused the death of a 13-year police veteran. The accident highlights primary liability and public safety concerns in Utah and beyond. The New York Post had a video and rundown of the incident, which nearly killed Sgt. Cade Brenchley. The Utah Department of Public Safety released the video for the public. While Sgt. Brenchley assisted a car that spun off the road, another vehicle hit the trooper from behind. The resulting crash launched the officer into the air, causing him four broken ribs and a broken shoulder blade. The trooper calls the incident a dream, and that it was a miracle that he survived. A Reminder of the Move Over Law There were multiple elements to the crash. Of course, poor weather played a role. But there was much more involved. Many states enacted several major driving reforms due to similar incidents. California's Move Over, Slow Down law from 2007, is similar to legislation passed in all 50 states. The law requires all drivers to move over into a lane not adjacent to emergency vehicles, tow trucks, and DOT vehicles when safe. If this is not the case, the driver is responsible for slowing down. Furthermore, drivers that do not obey are on the hook for a traffic infraction. Besides, the accident is a vital bellwether of liability in public service. Public safety agencies from police departments to fire departments each carry heavy insurance loads for events like this. It also shows the legal options of police officers to hold reckless drivers responsible. This includes criminal and traffic actions but also in civil court. Courts traditionally support law enforcement in similar cases, especially if the driver was intoxicated or irresponsibly operating the vehicle.