Whiteout conditions cause accidents along I-65

Winds of up to 40 mph and a fresh coating of 2 to 4 inches of snow left drivers seeing white Tuesday.

Drivers reported whiteout conditions across the county, from Edinburgh to Greenwood, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said.

On Interstate 65, at least three accidents were reported when semi-trucks jack-knifed across multiple lanes, closing southbound lanes for hours. Two accidents involving semi-trucks less than 3 miles from the Franklin exit occurred within minutes of each other.

Officers were called to help motorists who slid off local roads and to monitor the extra traffic on U.S. 31, which was the alternate route for southbound traffic with I-65 closed.

The key issue was the wind.

In areas with no businesses, homes or trees to block the 25 to 40 mph winds, blowing snow led to little to no visibility for drivers, especially in the morning, Cox said. Gusts of more than 30 mph and a wind chill of near or below zero kept the snow from melting and the salt on roads from sticking.

The sun didn’t start to come out to warm the roads until about noon, leaving them coated with patches of ice. More than 25 drivers called the Johnson County Dispatch Center for help after sliding off the road, especially along U.S. 31, Franklin Police Department spokesman Lt. Kerry Atwood said. Before noon, sheriff’s deputies had been called to help 16 people whose vehicles slid off the road and four accidents, Cox said.

And plow drivers couldn’t keep up because the wind blew snow across county roads and other streets where buildings or homes didn’t block the gusts, Greenwood streets superintendent Kenny Duncan said.

“We’re making some headway, but we’ve got some drifting going on,” Duncan said. “Everybody’s fighting the same thing.”

Averitt Road, Emerson Avenue and Worthsville Road near the new interchange were all repeatedly coated over with fresh snow with the winds, Duncan said. Snow plow drivers would go into a subdivision, and then return to the main road to a half-inch of snow again, he said.

Duncan told his employees to avoid throwing salt on lesser-traveled roads because the wind gusts would blow it away within minutes, he said. So salt trucks stuck to major intersections and busier streets with more businesses or homes, Duncan said.

Luckily, drivers are about to get a break, with temperatures expected in the 40s by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Roads will continue to be slick in this morning, but the wind should die down and temperatures will warm up the rest of the week.