St. Marys Journal Argus
Despite two weekend roadway fatalities in Oxford County to the south, and Monday morning road closures in Huron County to the west, the Perth County detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police reported a quiet time for officers on the roads.
“We’ve been skating clear of a lot of the stuff that has been happening,” reported Perth County Community Services Officer, Constable Kees Wijnands, in a Monday morning interview with the Journal Argus.
Following an unseasonably warm and snow-free December, wintertime driving conditions mounted their first return to southwestern Ontario on Saturday, Jan. 3, as wet snow began falling in the morning before turning to freezing rain later in the day. That made road conditions treacherous, and in the 24 hours that followed two people lost their lives in separate two-vehicle crashes in the southeastern portion of Oxford.
Sunday afternoon and into Monday morning, the temperature began plummeting, the wind speed rose, and the precipitation continued, resulting a new set of challenges for motorists and those working to keep the roads safe. Wijnands, who says the Perth County force remained cognizant of this winter’s first blast in this region back in mid-to-late November, said officers were prepared for the worst.
“We had 40 crashes in one day at that time. Our officers were just running from one to the next,” the OPP constable recalled.
This time, however, it appears that the county’s drivers were prepared.
“In terms of collisions, we’re doing great,” he reported.
On Highway 7 at the Klomp’s Nursery corner, there were a couple of slight delays on Monday morning due to the inability for heavy tractor-trailers to get traction on the slick roadway.
“They couldn’t go forward, and they couldn’t see (due to the blowing snow) so they didn’t want to try backing up. So they weren’t able to get going and we had to send officers to assist with traffic control,” Wijnands explained.
Separate situations also involving tractor-trailers also forced the short-term closure of two other area roadways. On Highway 86 between Listowel and Wingham, Wijnands reported, the road was closed for a time as a transport truck was pulled out of a ditch. And on the former Highway 83 between Exeter and Russeldale, there was a 2-3 hour closure as another tractor-trailer was pulled from the ditch.
Wijnands noted that earlier on that same day (Monday), a tow truck responding to a crash was hit by another vehicle on Highway 402. He urged motorists to keep an eye out for emergency vehicles at all times.
“And don’t do too much gawking. Emergency responders need to be sure that they can be safe while they work,” he said.
School buses were cancelled on Monday morning in Perth, Middlesex and Huron Counties, but not in Oxford — where students were back in school after the Christmas holidays, as scheduled, in A.J. Baker and Zorra Highland public schools. And Wijnands suggested that was a positive factor in keeping the roads safe.
“That eliminates a lot of vehicles off the road when the schools are not open,” he commented. “You tend to get people saying, ‘well, I’ll drop them off (at school) to make sure they get there safely,’ and some of those people aren’t regular commuters. So it just adds to the number of cars if the buses are running and it’s also stormy.”