TxDOT defends response after icy weather cripples Austin roadways

Traffic stopped on MoPac while crews put down sand.
Traffic stopped on MoPac while crews put down sand.

Even after a night which saw hundreds of accidents in the area, the Texas Department of Transportation defended their response to the icy weather which crippled roadways.

“We were out there,” said TxDOT spokesperson Kelli Reyna. “And didn’t treat roads just once, we treated them repeatedly.”

Reyna said 131 crews were out in the elements on Thursday night into Friday morning to put nearly 250 tons of sand and de-icing agent on Central Texas roads.

The high overpasses where many wrecks occurred received the most treatment.

“In some areas where there were crashes, we treated them three, four, or five times,” said Reyna.

Austin police said they responded to a staggering 278 crashes from 6 p.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Friday.

Some preparation began Wednesday night according to TxDOT.

Each winter weather event reveals some room for improvement, but Reyna said it is hard to predict how each storm will play out.

“Anytime you deal with Mother Nature, there is an element of unpredictability.”

Business is expected to pick up at Longhorn Collision Center over the weekend as wrecked out vehicles begin to make their way in for repair.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook,” said general manager Larry Powers who has seen frozen roads give drivers fits many times over the years.

“The number one cause, without fail in this weather, is going too fast.”

He says many drivers have a common excuse, but it does not always hold water.

“Everybody says ‘if there was sand on the road, I wouldn’t have crashed,’ which is not necessarily true.”

Reyna agrees.

“We can do our part and put material down but it will not work if you continue to drive 60 miles per hour,” she said.

Typically for severe weather events, TxDot offices from across the state can send resources to the affected area.

However, help was limited on Thursday night because many of the surrounding counties were also dealing with the freeze and outlying areas usually do not contribute resources for a one-night event.

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