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Icy conditions freeze traffic on Valley roads

By KTVA Alaska 8:39 PM November 22, 2013

Flipped school bus sends four students to hospital; more than 65 cars, six more buses stranded on frozen roads

WASILLA – Alaska’s no stranger to cold, wet weather, but the black ice and freezing rain along the Knik Goose Bay Road (KGB) had some Wasilla residents calling Friday’s weather some of the worst they’ve ever seen.

“We’re used to the snow, and we’re used to the icy roads, but this is just a straight up ice skating rink,” said State Trooper Ryan Anderson.

Troopers dealt with more than 65 vehicles in distress across the Valley throughout Friday morning, with accidents shutting down portions of the Parks Highway. Collisions and ditch-stranded vehicles closed off portions of the KGB Road. At one time, more than 20 vehicles were stranded due to ice rink conditions on Vine Road.

“From my experience, this is kind of the worst I’ve ever seen,” Anderson said, diverting traffic along KGB road due to the closure of Vine.

The rain started falling — and freezing — just before 8 a.m., after schools had already given the go-ahead for buses to run.

“When they called school it was still clear out and not raining,” Anderson said. “The school buses started up as normal, and then [when] it did start to rain, the ice started to accumulate, and since then it’s just been … cars sliding off the road into ditches.”

Two buses had minor traffic accidents. A Palmer/Wasilla school district spokesperson said they were from other vehicles sliding into the buses. Six more buses were stranded by the icy roads; eventually students on those stranded buses were brought to nearby schools.

One wasn’t so lucky. On it’s way to Snowshoe Elementary, a bus carrying 14 students on Edlund Road, near Fariview Loop, slid off the road and flipped. A school spokesperson said medics responded to the scene and cleared all aboard to continue on to school. Later, four students and the bus driver were taken to Mat-Su Regional Hospital for minor injuries.

Despite the slick roads, it didn’t keep many from their regular routines.

“It was not like a normal day,” said Kaylee Price, a barista at the Iditacup coffee stand. She arrived at work before the rain started, and watched things go from bad to worse.

“I got her at five [a.m.], and when I got here it was fine,” she said. “I don’t know what time it was, but once it started raining you just saw everybody sliding and going in the ditch, not making it up the hill.”

State and borough road crews were out throughout the day, chipping away at the ice and sanding the roads. By late afternoon those efforts had opened up even the slickest parts of KGB Road, including the previously closed Vine.

Even with improving conditions, and most of KGB Road opened by this afternoon, Anderson said conditions remained extremely slick.

”Only go out if you have to, and if you do go out, give yourself plenty of extra time,” he cautioned. “Drive slowly and give yourself plenty of extra space around you, and just have patience, because everywhere you go, its just going to be traffic problems.”

Colder weather on the way could mean a quick freeze in the Valley, leaving Wasilla residents to contend with another ice rink on Saturday.

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