Breckenridge Texan

Emergency services respond to local accidents caused by icy roads

Emergency services respond to local accidents caused by icy roads
December 31
18:35 2017

Icy roads and sub-freezing temperatures continue to plague the area causing hazardous driving conditions throughout the area.

By around 1 p.m. today, local emergency services have responded to three reported vehicle accidents and several house fires during the last few days, involving electrical issues.

According to Stephens County Sheriff Will Holt, one of the accidents was a one-vehicle roll-over on U.S. Highway 180 east of the Lake Hubbard Creek bridge.

He said the driver was a college student driving from Abilene to Waxahachie who lost control of his vehicle and went down into a steep gully. Holt said the vehicle rolled once and landed back on its tires.

“That’s a very good example why folks don’t need to be on the road today,” Holt said. “The bar ditch isn’t always friendly. Not all bar ditches are flat and even and provide a good cushion. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt; he had his seatbelt on.”

Holt said the vehicle went down about a 30-foot drop into a gully and that, combined with the slippery conditions, made it unsafe for a tow truck to try and recover the vehicle until after the weather improves.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation map at, Stephens County is situated at the center of an area covered in ice. The roads and highways leading out of Breckenridge are all labeled as icy and snowy, and caution is advised for anyone planning to travel on the roads today. Some of the highways aren’t expected to be clear until Tuesday, Jan. 2.

Holt said that earlier this morning, one of his department’s deputies transported a patient to mental facility in Abilene and it took him two hours to get there and two hours to get back.

“He said conditions between Albany and Abilene were way worse than between Breckenridge and Albany,” Holt said. “He saw numerous vehicles on the side of the road closer to Abilene on Highway 351.”

As for Stephens County, Holt said most road conditions in all parts of the county were about the same. He had responded to two different calls earlier today on U.S. Highway 180 West and found the trickiest part of driving on the ice was going up the inclines.

“People will want to increase their speed when they’re going up incline,” he said. “If they do that too fast, then their tires will spin and they lose control. When they’re going downhill, people will want to step on their brakes because they don’t want to go too fast down the hill, and that can be the wrong maneuver because stepping on their brakes can cause them to lose control on the ice.”

He said the best thing people can do is accelerate very slowly and try not to brake as much and to just let gravity and inertia slow them down.

He said the best advice is not go anywhere unless you have to. “It should be an emergency,” he said. “It should not be a ‘I need to go to the store to get something.’”

Even in an emergency situation, Holt suggests calling 911 instead of driving yourself if you can, because they have four-wheel drive vehicles better able to handle the poor driving conditions.

He said if somebody does have to go out, a truck with all-terrain tires or off-road tires and four-wheel drive is much better than a two-wheel drive car.

“So, if people do have to go out, put it in four-wheel drive or take an all-wheel drive vehicle, and that will help a little bit,” he said. “But they still need to avoid not going out at all if they can avoid it. Stay inside if you can.”

In additions to hazardous driving conditions, the freezing temperatures have also resulted in some people overloading electrical circuits in their homes as they use heaters to try and stay warm.

Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney said the fire department responded to a house fire around 7 a.m. Saturday morning that was caused by overloaded electrical wiring.

“That was a pretty major fire,” Chaney said. “It really did a lot of damage to the attic area. The residents had to be relocated by the Ministerial Alliance because the damage was so bad.”

In addition to that fire, Chaney they had three fires on Friday which were all caused from some kind of electrical issue.

In addition to the fire calls, Chaney said, on Saturday night they responded to a call were people were trying to use a small gas heater in their house and ended up having to go to the emergency room to be check because it made them sick.

He said when using any kind of gas heater, including a central air heater, people need to make sure to have a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. He said if you have any kind of gas appliance, including water heaters and stoves, you need a carbon monoxide detector.

“You can’t smell carbon monoxide.” Chaney said.  “If you start getting dizzy, light headed, or can’t function correctly, you need to get to some fresh air and call the fire department, call the ambulance get somebody to check you out.”

Chaney said one of the most important things to keep in mind when using an electric heater, which is what they’re having the most issues with right now, is to make sure they are plugged directly into a wall outlet. He said do not use an extension cord, or six-way splitters on the outlet.

“They’re not designed to run off extension cords,” he said.  “Extension cords cannot handle that kind of wattage they’re pulling. Then, if you compound that by plugging other stuff into that same outlet, you’re overloading the circuit and that’s where we had these other fires.”

He said even if you’re using the heater plugged in properly, you still need to make sure there is a three-foot clearance all around it from any combustible items, such as furniture, clothes, beds and furniture.

“They put off so much heat, they are really dangerous,” he said.

Chaney said another thing people need to keep in mind is that emergency vehicles, like other vehicles on the road, also can’t drive fast in the icy conditions and still must drive safely.

“If we’re called to somewhere, we’re not going to get there as quickly as we usually do,” he said. “It’s not just us, that’s the ambulance, that’s the police, the sheriff, the highway patrol. We’ve all got to reduce our speed; we’ve got to be able to get there.

As for celebrating New Year’s Eve tonight, Chaney said, he hopes people will stay home.

“Tonight people just need to stay home,” he said. “I know everybody wants to celebrate the New Year, but it’s just not a good time to be out driving.”

The National Weather Service is forecasting an overnight low of 13 degrees with 15 mile-per-hour north winds taking the wind chill values down to between 0 and 10 degrees.

Monday, New Year’s Day, is expected to be sunny but still cold with a high of 25 and an overnight low of 11. Tuesday’s high is supposed to be 28.

Temperatures are predicted to go above freezing for the first time this week on Wednesday, which should see sunny skies and a high near 45.

Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Icy conditions throughout Stephens County have created dangerous driving situations all day. The sub-freezing weather is expected to continue for several more days. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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