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Highway conditions worsen with snow
Merritt received about three centimetres of snow on Tuesday in one of the first snowfalls of the year, and local police were kept busy attending incidents on the highways around the city.
Merritt RCMP Cpl. Tim Lyons said police tended to about four or five vehicles going off the road and into ditches that day, one of which was a rollover resulting in minor injuries to one person.
He said at Larson Hill — about a half hour south of Merritt — there were many vehicles that went into ditches and traffic was moving at about 90 kilometres an hour on average.
On Saturday night, Highway 5 at Larson Hill was closed for about four hours as several semi-trucks spun out and needed to be attended to.
Lyons told the Herald the road did not reopen until about 8 p.m. and by that time traffic had thinned out.
Lyons said it was snowing heavily, and accumulated snow on the road made for icy conditions.
Tow trucks were on scene to remove the vehicles from the roadway or tow them up the hill, Lyons said.
Nicholas Moretto, general manager of Mario’s towing in Merritt, said the towing company had to pull about 10 semi-trucks up Larson Hill.
“It’s hard for them to get traction because they weigh so much and so they just need a little bit of a pull. It’s nothing too substantial,” Moretto said.
Moretto described the Coquihalla Highway as a difficult roadway.
Lyons said a number of the semi-trucks were trying to drive up the hill without tire chains.
“There was a big lineup of them chaining up, but there were some that were trying to make the hill without chaining up and of course they were spinning out and clogging up the hill itself,” Lyons said.
It was only the southbound lane heading towards Vancouver that was closed due to an over-saturation of spun-out semis.
Even a U-Haul from Arizona — travelling without winter tires — had to be taken off the road via tow truck and returned to Merritt that night, Lyons said.
Lyons said some of the commercial vehicles from Saturday night’s closure were given fines for not chaining up.
The fines include driving without consideration — a fine of $196 — and disobeying traffic control devices as signage was posted informing drivers to chain up — a $121 fine.
Lyons said drivers need to adjust to the day’s conditions when travelling on the highways.
Police will be issuing fines for speeding relative to conditions, which is a $167 fine, he said.
Drivers should adjust their speeds to the flow of traffic, Lyons said.
“If you’re out there passing everybody in your big F-350 with big tires and you’re blowing slush on everybody, you’re going to get a ticket,” Lyons said, noting commercial vehicles for the most part are travelling at the appropriate speeds.
Lyons also said tires with the M+S (mud and snow) symbol on them and those with the snowflake in a mountain symbol are acceptable.
Police, at least for this winter, will not be issuing fines to drivers who don’t have the snowflake symbol on their tires.
The provincial government will look into determining if both types of tires qualify as winter tires as part of its highway speed limit review.
Semi, SUV collide on Hwy 5A
A semi-truck sideswiped an SUV on Highway 5A near the Quilchena Ranch early last Friday morning, resulting in a crash which closed the highway briefly.
The driver of the semi-truck, a 55-year-old man, crossed the centre line as the SUV, driven by a 58-year-old man — who had two passengers, a 53-year-old and 14-year-old — tried to avoid the collision resulting in the sideswipe, Cpl. Tim Lyons said.
“It was a very, very lucky situation for the SUV driver because he managed to take evasive manoeuvres,” Lyons said.
The crash resulted in minor injuries to the four people involved in the collision, Lyons said.
He said the driver of the semi was inspected at the scene by paramedics and not taken to hospital.
The driver of the SUV and his two passengers were brought to Nicola Valley Hospital and Health Centre and inspected for minor injuries.
No one was seriously hurt in the crash. The driver of the semi was fined for failing to keep right.