AVERY COUNTY — Some of the coldest air of the season, combined with moderate moisture, led to unexpected snowy and treacherous road conditions in portions of the High Country on Monday morning, Jan. 20, especially in areas at approximately 4,000 feet in elevation.
Emergency personnel responded to multiple incidents on Hwy. 105 near the Avery/Watauga county line of vehicles sliding off the highway and into ditches along the roadway.
Multiple authorities responded to the incidents on 105, including Linville Volunteer Fire Department, Banner Elk Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Linville Central Rescue Squad, Avery County Sheriff’s Office, Avery EMS and Sugar Mountain Police Department, as a portion of the highway from the Tynecastle intersection north toward Foscoe was temporarily closed to traffic to enable personnel to clear the scene.
Near the bottom of the hill leading into Seven Devils in Watauga County, a tractor-trailer also jacknived, halting traffic attempting to come up the hill toward Avery for a period of time during the morning as well.
“We had reports of many, many cars off the road, with one vehicle 30 to 35 feet down an embankment, which we got everybody out,” Avery County Fire Marshal Paul Buchanan said. “There were some injuries, but I don’t believe anything was life threatening on that particular incident.”
According to Buchanan, slippery roads factored into the vehicles losing control. He added that the roads had not been treated by NCDOT crews at the time of the incidents.
“Unfortunately, DOT had not made it to that part of the county and it was completely snow covered. From what I understand, a jackknifed tractor and trailer starting up at Seven Devils had blocked traffic there as well,” Buchanan added. “It was just a tremendous weather situation.”
With no accumulating snow in the overnight and early-morning weather forecast, the conditions were a surprise to many as they began the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
“It caught everybody off guard. All the information we were getting up to this morning was that there would only be some flurries and no real accumulating snowfall, so I think it honestly caught everyone off guard,” Buchanan noted.
Emergency personnel vehicles were not immune to the conditions, as a Linville Volunteer Fire Department truck slid into a ditch in response to the calls.
“We did have a fire truck that had to either hit a car or hit a ditch, so they put it into the ditch. The crash truck was in the ditch. We had ambulances going every which way. It was just a big mess,” Buchanan noted. “We went right in and did our job. Though we weren’t necessarily prepared for this weather, we’re still always prepared, and we did what we had to do.”