The snowflakes fell in erie silence that Saturday morning–December 16, to be exact–the first snow accumulation of the year. It had been snowing since Friday night and there were several inches on the ground. A slow-moving weekend to be sure, as the snow hushed the sound from the tires of the few cars that ventured out. In some neighborhoods, the calm was interrupted with the kind of noise that makes the hair on your neck stand up: the sound of a car crash.
According to a nearby resident who could see one of the accident sites, five more vehicles lost traction that day on a slope on the aptly named “Hillside” in the Pacific Terrace neighborhood. This accident and many others occured because there were no snowplows running and no sanding going on.
It goes down every year like this in Klamath. We know there will be snow, the first snow tends to hit on a weekend, and somehow the road department is caught by surprise. They are extremely slow to react, or decide weekdends don’t warrant their attention, leading to many accidents and injuries that could have been prevented. Our snows are mild compared to places like Wisconson, Ohio and Michigan that contend with accumulations over 6 feet deep each winter. Chicago and Detroit are able to fully mobilize and cover a much larger area, but Klamath can’t handle even a couple of inches of snow. The crews in Klamath are more responsive on weekdays, but that doesn’t help the majority of small businesses in Klamath engaged in retail and hospitality. It also doesn’t help those people trying to get to church or go to the store for groceries so they can weather the storm. Let’s not forget that this was one of the biggest Christmas shopping weekends of the year and therefore extremely important for the local economy.
This was no isolated case, but is representative of many neglected areas of Klamath where the government failed to mobilize during the first snow of the season. Hillside remained a problem throughout the weekend until Sunday night at 6m when a snowplow finally cleared the street and laid gravel. This occured only after the police responded to yet another vehicle-disabling accident. It isn’t much of a surprise the government failed to respond in a timely manner to the first snow; they rack up the same failure every year. What is perplexing is two the City police officers (who responded to the first accident Saturday morning and stood on the street waiting for a tow truck) failed to warn motorists by barricading the troublesome steep section, or call in a plow for an emergency plowing and sanding. Bystanders couldn’t take two steps without falling down. Even cars with snow tires couldn’t make it up the hill without completely losing traction and careening backwards out of control. Vehicles radically lost traction, according to a witness, at least seven more times between Saturday and Sunday night when the road was finally dealt with. Somehow it made sense for the police to just walk away from what was essentially a sheet of ice and take no action to alleviate accidents on a primary artery that no vehicle could safely traverse. With Chief of Police, Jim Hunter, temporarily at the helm as temporary City Manager, you’d think the streets would have been safer. Nope, failed there too. Great leadership, people.
Welcome to winter ignorance and mis-management in Klamath Falls.
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