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Traffic backs up on Robert C. Byrd Drive Wednesday morning in front of Crossroads Mall at Bradley after officials closed the road in the area of “Prosperity dip” because of numerous vehicle accidents and others stuck on the slippery hill. Traffic was detoured through Prosperity to avoid the treacherous roadway. Several main roads in and around Beckley were temporarily closed during the storm to allow tow trucks and Division of Highways snow plows to do their work.

This year’s first blast of winter made the Wednesday morning commute a nightmare for motorists throughout southern West Virginia with more than 100 motor vehicle accidents reported across the region.

The snow started falling just after 3 a.m. with the heaviest accumulation between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

In all, only 2 inches of snow fell at the Beckley-Raleigh County Memorial Airport, but Emergency Operations Centers and towing services throughout the region were overwhelmed with reports of minor accidents.

The Raleigh County EOC reported 43 accidents between midnight and 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Several main roads in and around Beckley, including South Kanawha Street, Airport Road and a portion of U.S. 19, were temporarily closed to allow tow trucks and Division of Highways snow plows to do their work.

Capt. Gordon Gregory of the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department described the road conditions as “pretty nasty” and said that the snow came down so quickly that the DOH workers had trouble keeping up with it.

Starting at 7:08 a.m., accident reports began pouring into the Fayette County EOC, including an afternoon report of a vehicle that left the road and landed in Armstrong Creek.

“That snow came down quick — it wasn’t your West Virginia kind of snow,” said a Fayette County dispatcher. “We had wrecks all over U.S. 19 and the back roads.”

The Greenbrier County EOC reported about 40 accidents occurring between 7 a.m. and noon. All of the accidents were minor, with no major injuries.

“I’d say most of them were minor MVAs, fender-benders, cars sliding off the roads and tractor-trailers jackknifing,” said a Greenbrier County EOC dispatcher.

The Monroe County EOC reported 12 accidents in the northern part of the county, with two of the accidents resulting in at least one person being transported to a hospital.

Several fender-benders were also reported in Nicholas, Wyoming and Summers counties, with no major injuries.

As soon as Beckley Police Patrolman Andy Darlington came on duty at 8 a.m. Wednesday, he and other officers were handling wreck after wreck in the city.

“It was non-stop with the wrecks,” he said. “As soon as you got done with one, you were dispatched to another call — another wreck. When you were done with one wreck, there was another one waiting on you.”

Several streets such as Pikeview and Rural Acres drives were blocked after several vehicles slid into ditches, Darlington said. A vehicle also slid off New River Drive and crashed into a construction trailer at Value City Center. Only minor damage was reported.

Darlington said his own patrol car — a rear-wheel-drive Ford Crown Victoria — became stuck several times even though he has snow tires.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” he said.

Roads and reports of wrecks cleared between 11 a.m. and noon, Darlington said.

First Sgt. M.R. Miller, West Virginia State Police, Turnpike division, described Interstate 64’s eastbound lanes as “horrible”, especially in Summers and Greenbrier counties where several vehicles were stuck after the quick snowfall.

“It was pretty ugly,” he said. “This was our first substantial snow we’ve had in a long time, and I guess everyone forgot how to drive in it.”

The Turnpike had its share of problems in the early morning hours, Miller said. Troopers handled three tractor-trailer wrecks, and while these were minor, such accidents tend to “clog” traffic. The Turnpike was cleared about 10 a.m.

Miller advised motorists to outright avoid driving in the snow unless absolutely necessary.

“If you don’t need to be out there, don’t be out there,” he said. “This is not the time to do your Christmas shopping or go out and get your milk. If I didn’t have to be out there, I wouldn’t be.”

DOH had 15 trucks working in Raleigh County and 10 trucks in Wyoming County on Wednesday morning, according to John McBrayer, District 10 manager.

“Things went pretty well,” McBrayer said. “It’s the first major snowfall, and it takes some adjusting. The public realizes that when we have snow they need to leave a little early and take their time.”

At Mountain State University, officials decided to extend exam week by one day, allowing professors to offer an exam make-up day Dec. 12 for those students who were not able to attend Wednesday’s classes.

Officials were also prompted to cancel all classes at the Beckley campus of New River Community and Technical College and afternoon classes at the Greenbrier County campus.

Wednesday night, snowy conditions persisted — causing even more accidents, authorities said. Nicholas County Emergency Operations Center dispatchers said roads froze again overnight, and several drivers wrecked on black ice. While dispatchers handled several wrecks, no motorists were injured.

“It’s an ice skating rink out there,” a dispatcher with the Raleigh County EOC said. The Raleigh County EOC said 53 accidents were reported between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday. These did not include the numerous reports of vehicles in ditches.

Greenbrier County EOC dispatchers were slammed Wednesday night.

“We’re busy — wrecks everywhere,” one man said.

EOC dispatchers in Monroe, Summers and Wyoming counties reported no significant weather-related incidents overnight Wednesday.

No wrecks on the West Virginia Turnpike had been reported from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to Turnpike Operations.

As of 9 p.m., I-64 in Greenbrier County was shut down at the 156 mile marker because a tractor-trailer reportedly jack-knifed.

The National Weather Service predicts sunshine and slightly warmer weather for today with much of the snow melting by the weekend.

Register-Herald reporter Michelle James also contributed to this story.

— E-mail:

bbilleter@register-herald.com or apridemore@register-herald.com

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