Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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Freezing rain creates hazards in WV mountains: Icy roads and sidewalks prove difficult for motorists, pedestrians: January 31, 2005

ABOVE: A car slides hard into the curb on Beckley's Neville Street, from Storm Highway video on The Weather Channel on January 31.

VIDEO: Sliding cars and icy coatings in Beckley: Storm Highway Video Clip

BECKLEY, WV - A short but unexpected batch of freezing rain fell on West Virginia's higher elevations on Sunday evening, coating cars, trees and roads with a thin but dangerous layer of ice. Travel was treacherous where salt trucks hadn't yet treated the road surfaces. In Beckley, some cars and pedestrians discovered the icy coating the hard way. One motorist lost control on Neville Street and crashed into the curb, breaking off part of the car's bumper. The driver was unhurt.

The light freezing rain began shortly after dark on Sunday evening, and changed to light snow flurries just before midnight. While accumulations were very small (less than 1/10 inch), the icing event was enough to completely coat objects on the ground. Motorists had to bring out their window scrapers to clear off the icy shell that formed on their cars. Pedestrians downtown had to use caution on the slick sidewalks. Salt trucks were busy keeping main roads and the West Virginia Turnpike clear, but many side streets, including those in downtown Beckley, remained untreated and dangerous.

Freezing rain occurs when precipitation falls from a warm layer of air aloft into a layer of below-freezing air at the surface. The rain instantly freezes when it touches objects and surfaces on the ground, creating a glaze-like coating on trees, power lines and roads. Unlike snow, which is somewhat navigable when it covers roadways, this 'black ice' offers no traction for vehicles on roads. Driving on roads iced over from freezing rain is particularly dangerous, as loss of control occurs much easier than on snow or rain-covered surfaces. On 'black ice', just a light tap on the brake or accelerator is enough to send a vehicle into an unrecoverable slide.

BELOW: Icy scenes from downtown Beckley, from Storm Highway video on The Weather Channel on Monday.

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