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Pileups close highways

Freak weather sets chain-reaction crashes in motion across K.C. metro

Paramedics and firefighters worked for hours to free motorists trapped in their cars after sudden winter weather caused vehicles to pile on top of each other on Interstate 70 between Lawrence and Bonner Springs Feb. 14, 2010.

Paramedics and firefighters worked for hours to free motorists trapped in their cars after sudden winter weather caused vehicles to pile on top of each other on Interstate 70 between Lawrence and Bonner Springs Feb. 14, 2010.

February 14, 2010, 1:49 p.m. Updated February 14, 2010, 11:23 p.m.

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Icy roads cause multiple Turnpike pile-ups

Traffic in both directions on Interstate 70 was blocked by multiple car pile-ups Sunday afternoon. Enlarge video

Accidents close I-70, strand motorists

Icy roads caused about 40 vehicles to slide and collide with one another Sunday afternoon. Westbound lanes were closed as crews worked to clear the wreckage. Enlarge video

Icy roads and poor weather conditions Sunday afternoon caused numerous multiple-vehicle pileups on highways east of Lawrence.

The westbound lanes of Interstate 70 near Bonner Springs were closed from about 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. as emergency and Kansas Turnpike Authority personnel worked to clear the wreckage from a 40-vehicle pileup that occurred about a half-mile west of the intersection of Kansas Highway 7 and I-70.

Eastbound turnpike traffic was limited to one lane during the same time period after 30 to 40 vehicles were involved in similar accident about two-and-a-half miles west of Kansas Highway 7. Authorities opened all eastbound lanes shortly after 7 p.m.

Kansas Turnpike officials said no one was seriously hurt during the incidents, but due to the high number of accident reports they were working on they did not have information compiled on injuries. Several people were extricated from vehicles and at least a few received medical treatment at the scene.

Reports from motorists in the area described the stretch of I-70 between Lawrence and Bonner Springs as an ice sheet, and said a brief burst of heavy snow produced near-whiteout conditions.

Witnesses at the K-7 accident site also said that several buses were dispatched to the scene Sunday afternoon to take stranded motorists off the highway.

6News meteorologist Greg Postel said the snow squalls were part of an unusual weather pattern, with intense snowfall reducing visibility to near zero for several minutes in various areas just to the east of Lawrence. Interestingly, he added, the weather radar Sunday afternoon showed that the snow bands were separated from one another by almost clear skies, and radiated outward from a precipitation-free center.

In other parts of the Kansas City metropolitan area, one pileup Sunday on Interstate 35 in Lenexa sent 13 people to the hospital, mostly with minor injuries. The northbound lanes of I-35 were closed for about three hours while the wreckage was cleared; authorities estimated that more than 20 cars were involved. U.S. Highway 69 in the same area, near 87th Street, was also closed for several hours by a chain-reaction crash.

Meanwhile, another pileup along Interstate 435 in Kansas City, Kan., near the former Woodlands racing complex, involved up to 40 vehicles.

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Comments

Bradley Kemp 4 years, 10 months ago

Saw a pile up of at least 50 cars on westbound I-70 just west of Bonner Springs 30 minutes ago.

crispysyn 4 years, 10 months ago

Hopefully between Topeka and Lawrence is okay. I work in Topeka and don't get off work for another 5 hours.

Charlie Sabotage 4 years, 10 months ago

we got off of I70 by Legends and took the backroad. it was backed up that far at 2:30. hope everyone is okay. it's scary out there. be considerate and slow down

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't know, there just seems to be something about certain personalities that normally civil (repressed??) persons get behind the wheel of a vehicle and are transformed into a raging, vicious, abusive personality. Snow and slick roads magnify the problem. I think it is fruitless to try to encourage some people to ';drive safely", their vehicle is their armoured tank all others are to be ignored or targeted.

TongieMom 4 years, 10 months ago

It was TOTAL white out conditions on 24/40 & I could not imagine what I70 was like! Of course, there were people driving entirely too fast for the conditions. An accident at 158th & 24-40 had several police working the scene and suddenly out of the white blur of snow came an SUV who saw the lights and such on his side of the highway and hit his brakes causing him to spin across the median and in to oncoming westbound traffic.

Hopefully, no one was seriously injured in any of the numerous accidents we saw today.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 10 months ago

Bob, I am very familiar with the conditions that you describe. We were headed to Oklahoma south of Wichita one year, and encountered a white out blizzard. We were forced off the road by a person in a huge SUV who almost careened into us trying to pass at high speed. They threw show and slush up on my windshield and I could not see out and landed in a ditch. No one was hurt and nothing damanged, but we had to call for a tow.

This sort of behavior was what I was alluding to, not that everyone was a lousey driver. I know most folks are careful, but unfortunately it only takes a few to really cause problems. I also hope no one was hurt or damanged, but I have not seen any news reports yet this afternoon.

persevering_gal 4 years, 10 months ago

I just drove past there at 4:15, and I-70 Westbound is still closed at the Bonner Springs exit. It did not look good.

ontheroadfitness 4 years, 10 months ago

My kid and I were driving back from Dick's Sporting Goods in Topeka when cars started swerving all over the road on I-470... it was like a scene out of Talladega Nights! At least two cars must have ended up in the ditch and some pulled 180s and were facing oncoming traffic. It was nuts! Luckily we were able to get through without wrecking!

overthemoon 4 years, 10 months ago

Secondary problem, its wicked cold out there. Bad time to be stranded in your car. That's why I harp on the child to were a coat and have some warm shoes and socks and hat and gloves in the car even if I get the "But Mom. I'm driving straight to Kansas City without stopping anywhere!"

yoornotmee 4 years, 10 months ago

“But Mom. I'm driving straight to Kansas City without stopping anywhere!”

Unless you make an unplanned stop into a ditch or into the back of another car!

Good on you, overthemoon for nagging your kid to take precautions!


I hope there weren't any kids in the pile up. How scary!

Liberty275 4 years, 10 months ago

Its good to see no serious injuries reported. Hopefully it will stay that way.

poolside 4 years, 10 months ago

LJWorld staff. If anyone needs a ride home from this mess, I have no plans this evening..

labmonkey 4 years, 10 months ago

Seriously edjayhawk? You are going to politize this accident?

greenworld 4 years, 10 months ago

All I know if these people were driving 70mph on I70 and didnt think that the roads could be in bad shape then maybe they will think twice next time before feeling the need for speed. By the looks of the picture not a very good valentine's day for some of these people.

crispysyn 4 years, 10 months ago

Just looking at the picture........

WOW!!!!

number1jayhawker 4 years, 10 months ago

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notajayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

It never ceases to amaze me.

People who don't know how to ski generally don't strap a couple of boards to their feet and launch themselves off the side of a hill. People that can't swim typically don't jump out of the boat. But people who have absolutely NO understanding of or ability to drive in bad weather think nothing at all about getting behind the controls of two tons of steel and glass, whose method of locomotion (not to mention deceleration and stopping) pretty much depends on friction with the surface they're traveling over, and whisking merrily along.

Yes, I know this came up suddenly (I was out in it) and I know accidents can happen to anyone. But accidents like THIS don't happen without at least a few of the people in the midst of the pack being major idiots.

The sad part is, it's usually them who walk away without a scratch with everyone else getting hurt - glad to see it looks like nobody was seriously hurt here.

Momofallboys 4 years, 10 months ago

I was in the bigger pile up towards the front. It was a complete white out. You couldn't see anything. We were on a bridge so there was no where to pull over. By the time I'd decided that I couldn't see well enough to drive it was to late. The last thing I saw was the person in front of me spinning in a circle. I wasn't even going fast enough for my airbag to deploy.

Jeremiah Jefferson 4 years, 10 months ago

It might have been a complete white out, but I guarantee 99% of the drivers involved in that accident were going no less than 70mph. I drive in and out of Olathe every day and it never ceases to amaze me how many morons pass me doing 70+ mph despite poor driving conditions. It might take me longer to get home, but I get home, and I leave all the morons stuck in the ditch to fend for themselves.

TheRob 4 years, 10 months ago

Not to defend anyone going too fast, but this was a weird weather event. When the snow began falling, it wasn't sticking to the side streets, and probably not the interstates either. A minute later, I look out the window and I can barely see the buildings across the street because of all the snow. Ten minutes later, the snow stops and the sun comes out (rinse and repeat).

Eride 4 years, 10 months ago

Wow, okay, so it was white-out conditions... doesn't mean an accident should occur. How many of us have seen people driving 80+ mph in conditions like that on 70?

It is far more likely people involved were driving unsafely.

sks6cf 4 years, 10 months ago

Fifty people on both sides of the highway were driving like morons? Really? ...... If people were really driving 70+ there would have been a lot of serious injuries and fatalities.

Please stop talking. It helps no one.

Robert Rauktis 4 years, 10 months ago

Just because ya can accelerate, don't mean ya can brake ...something they leave out of the macho car commercials.

Eride 4 years, 10 months ago

"sks6cf (Anonymous) says…

Fifty people on both sides of the highway were driving like morons? Really? …… If people were really driving 70+ there would have been a lot of serious injuries and fatalities.

Please stop talking. It helps no one."

Hmm, well, you apparently don't have the ability to read. Fifty people? How bout just 1, 5, 10? All it takes is one stupid person to cause a huge accident.

You obviously don't frequently drive on 70 in bad weather either, half the people out there drive like idiots no matter how bad the weather gets.

As to your telling me not to voice my opinion, well, that doesn't help anyone. If you can't form a rational argument might I suggest you refrain from speaking?

notajayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

tumbilweed (Anonymous) says…

"In a whiteout, all it takes is for one person to decide they can't see and STOP on the road, and you have your pileup."

Well, when you consider that the others probably should have stopped, too, since they couldn't SEE, which some people consider a prerequisite to driving ...


sks6cf (Anonymous) says…

"Fifty people on both sides of the highway were driving like morons? Really?"

Probably only a minority were driving like morons.

The rest were evidently just driving too fast for conditions.

"If people were really driving 70+ there would have been a lot of serious injuries and fatalities."

There's less damage from two cars colliding while doing 70 mph in the same direction than there is from one doing 30 mph and hitting another that's stopped.


Eride (Anonymous) says…

"All it takes is one stupid person to cause a huge accident."

It may have only taken one person to cause it, but in pileups like this, it took a few more to contribute.

redmoonrising 4 years, 10 months ago

I have an AWD vehicle and I try to drive safely no matter what the conditions. The vehicle isn't what provides my safety but my driving.

eckertdj 4 years, 10 months ago

It's amazing how many morons there are on the road, that seems to be agreed upon. Luckily everyone posting here is one of the good, safe drivers.

Joe Hyde 4 years, 10 months ago

I wouldn't be surprised if strong crosswind gusts were a contributing factor in these accidents, at least in terms of affecting the steering problems experienced by the drivers whose vehicles were up at the forward end of the accident chains.

It certainly was blowing hard out of the north yesterday afternoon. Especially on a highway that's already slick with patches of water/snow/ice, the best thing you can do is slow down, which, by reducing your velocity, allows gravity to better pull your vehicle against the roadway and maintain traction. And when doing this in low visibility conditions it's important to activate your vehicle's 4-way amber emergency flashers to warn the drivers approaching from behind that you are driving in "caution mode".

Hope everybody in these accidents recover from their injuries, and their rides get repaired back to 100% specs.

gravitykills 4 years, 10 months ago

Lot of idiot posters on here... far more than those involved in the accident. If you stop in your I-70 lane because of weather conditions, you're one those idiot drivers everyone has been talking about! It's illegal and you should be ticketed.

possumhauler 4 years, 10 months ago

Lots of interesting posts..I wasn't out in this event, tho I'm a long haul trucker. Weather events like this occur frequently in the mountains, even on nice sunny days. A gust of wind comes up, snow blows, whiteout occurs from a few minutes to an all day, or night event. The one item I missed seeing in these posts was the part about following to close. Just a thought. I've always thought, with the exception of SOME youthful drivers in Lawrence, drivers in this area are some of the best, most considerate drivers in the country. In the mountains, most truckers I know keep an eye on what's in front of them in areas prone to whiteouts. If what you're following suddenly disappears, it's probably a white out;flashers & pull over OUT of traffic lanes, while others behind you can still see. This event wasn't a normal occurance for these parts, with the described existing weather conditions. You're right to indivually think what you'd do differently if confronted with such an event. I thankful most injuries reported were minor & as cheap as todays cars are made even slow speed accidents can be devastating.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 10 months ago

No matter how much you may have paid for a vehicle, it still has to obey the laws of physics.

beawolf 4 years, 10 months ago

It's going to be a good day for the collision repair business. I have to agree, that I too, noticed that most drivers in Lawrence are very cautious when it come to Winter driving. That said, there are some real idiots when it comes to freeway/snow/ice driving on I-70.

notajayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

gravitykills (Anonymous) says…

"Lot of idiot posters on here… far more than those involved in the accident. If you stop in your I-70 lane because of weather conditions, you're one those idiot drivers everyone has been talking about! It's illegal and you should be ticketed."

So your advice is to keep driving, when you can not SEE.

There's a reason we don't issue drivers' licenses to blind people. Take a can of paint, go cover up the windshield and windows on your car, get in and go for a spin - see if you can figure out what that reason is.

Jimo 4 years, 10 months ago

I suppose it would be churlish to suggest that most of these people shouldn't have been on the roads at all, having nothing critical to require their trip despite obvious weather conditions. God forbid that a storm disrupts our mundane routines. I suspect over 90% of these people wished afterward they'd never left their house.

sks6cf 4 years, 10 months ago

I drive I-70 every day. And I think calling people stupid doesn't ever help any situation.

"Ain't it like most people, I'm no different, we love to talk on things we don't know about."

notajayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

sks6cf (Anonymous) says…

"I think calling people stupid doesn't ever help any situation."

Calling water wet or the sky blue doesn't help anything, either. It's just stating the facts.

Rae Hudspeth 4 years, 10 months ago

These pileups of comments have an odd similarity to the accident.

.. and I just can't stop watching it!

gravitykills 4 years, 10 months ago

notajayhawk... Thanks for staying home yesterday! may have had another pile up somewhere else.

You can stop on a shoulder, if such conditions exist. Stopping in your lane is the absolute worst thing you could do. Do you understand why it's illegal? YOU become the problem! If no shoulder exists, as was this case, proceed with caution to the nearest shoulder (across the bridge) and hope those behind you are being as cautious.

Visibility was less than 20'; not zero as you alluded to.

notajayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

gravitykills (Anonymous) says…

"notajayhawk… Thanks for staying home yesterday! may have had another pile up somewhere else."

If you'd read my posts, you might have noticed I wasn't at home yesterday. (And yet somehow managed to avoid an accident.)

And maybe you'd like to point us all to the part of the article where it says this pile-up was started by someone stopped in the road?

"You can stop on a shoulder, if such conditions exist. Stopping in your lane is the absolute worst thing you could do. Do you understand why it's illegal? YOU become the problem! If no shoulder exists, as was this case, proceed with caution to the nearest shoulder (across the bridge) and hope those behind you are being as cautious.

"Visibility was less than 20'; not zero as you alluded to. "

Wow! Twenty whole feet!

That's about a car length. Or about half the length of my living room.

Tell me, gravity, how slowly is "with caution", that it would give you enough time to stop in about twenty feet? Psssst - that was a rhetorical question. (Hint - at 5 mph, the stopping distance is about 35 feet - on dry roads with good tires - not to mention a 1-second reaction time would eat up about 18 feet.)

And, um, you do realize that if someone comes up behind you doing 50 mph, it really doesn't make that much difference if you're stopped or moving at 5 mph?

Oh, I forgot - you just "hope those behind you are being as cautious." Um - as long as we're hoping, what's wrong with hoping the people behind you had enough common sense to stop?

gravitykills 4 years, 10 months ago

Notajayhawk..... 5 mph = 35 feet. WOW! I had no idea. I'll have to remember that when I approach a stop sign. I better give it 50 feet (just in case). And here I thought at 20 mph, taking into account braking and reaction time, the total stopping distance was 44 feet.

But... I'm sure you would agree that 20 feet visibility is more than two car links.

How slowly is "with caution". Guidelines suggest reducing your speed and increasing your following distance in such conditions. I slowed to 20 mph on I-70 during the white out and I correctly assumed that I increased my following distance because I did not get into an accident and (psst) I'm thankful nobody stopped right in front of me.

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