Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Global warming alert

This deadly nightmare is what happens when you get snow in the wrong place:

Northbound Highway 101 near Sausalito is open again, now that authorities have cleared the wreckage left by a 28-car pileup on the icy and snowy highway that killed two people and injured more than a dozen others. The roadway opened at 1:35 p.m., more than 11 hours after the accident brought traffic to a halt. Investigators had kept the road closed to gather evidence and clear the wreckage, which stretched hundreds of feet along the roadway just north of the Waldo Tunnel, said CHP Sgt. Wayne Ziese. Authorities said the colossal pile-up started at 2:28 a.m. when cars began sliding on the roadway, which was slick with snow and slush. *** The wreckage stretched for 350 to 400 feet, creating what Ziese called "a jigsaw puzzle of cars." Dented cars faced every which way, strewn about like bowling pins. Broken glass, license plates, bashed fenders and CD cases littered the road. De La Torre Torres' crushed Honda had slammed into the center divide with another silver sedan. Its passenger door was embedded in the back of a white SUV several yards uphill in the middle of the logjam. Big-rig drivers approaching the crash had slowed in time and turned their trucks to block the lanes, preventing additional cars from joining the pile-up, Ziese said. He said motorists were simply going too fast for the unusual snowy and icy conditions that left the road slick. "They're coming around a curve, losing control, slip-sliding, spinning. Pretty soon it's boom-boom-boom-boom-boom," he said. "I don't recall a pileup of this nature in 20-some years in the Bay Area." *** Curtis Glace was the first CHP officer to arrive, and he found a surreal scene of chaos and confusion blanketed by an inch of snow and slush. Car horns and alarms blared as people, many of them standing outside their cars, yelled for help. "I have never seen anything like that," he said. "Everyone was sliding and everything happened so fast . . . One person said they kept getting hit, so much they couldn't keep track."
Driving in winter conditions is an acquired skill, and not one likely to kick in if you don't even realize that, in a place that never gets snow, your ploughing through icy slush:
Marin county resident Dimitris Koutsoukos, 51, was returning home from dinner in San Francisco when he came through the tunnel, saw lights and tried to stop but found his car sliding 200 yards on the slippery road. "It felt funny," Koutsoukos said today, standing amid the wreckage, his Mercedes Benz caught up in the middle of it. "All of a sudden, I was hitting the car in front of me, and I was hit. I thought it was raining. I didn't think it was snow because I never experienced snow."
Here's a picture from the Marin IJ story about the accident. Note the bizarre white stuff on the ground: