GLADSTONE – Extreme whiteout conditions made responding to a 16 vehicle pileup on U.S. 2 last Friday near Garden Corners a challenge for first responders who were working to help those injured and clear damaged vehicles from highway.
First Lt. Greg Cunningham with the Michigan State Police Post in Gladstone said the situation was dangerous because blowing snow made it difficult to see anything more than a few feet away.
“With the winds coming off the lake that day, there was no letup in the snow whatsoever. You couldn’t see anything in front of you so when you so when you left your patrol vehicles to search semis and cars for injured people you couldn’t see what direction it was back to your patrol vehicle much less be able to help anyone else,” Cunningham recalled.
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While on the phone in his patrol car, Cunningham was injured when his vehicle was struck by a semi-tractor trailer and he was thrown up against the dashboard.
“I was struck by a driver that was trying to avoid it as well. It was just total whiteout conditions and he couldn’t see himself,” Cunningham said.
Sixteen vehicles were involved in the accident including two propane tankers delivering propane to a terminal. Seven people were injured. Cunningham said it was fortunate that there were no fatalities.
It took more than five hours to help the people caught in the storm and clear the road.
“I really praise the first responders that were out there. The firemen that were on scene, the tow truck drivers, the ambulance crews. They did a tremendous job in extremely trying conditions,” said Cunningham.
Sheriff’s deputies were called back to the area Wednesday as blowing snow was again making viability difficult on that section of U.S. 2 between Garden Corners and the Fishdam River. The Delta County Road Commission installed signs to help slow traffic down.
During these types of conditions, Cunningham suggests that drivers check road conditions before they travel and be prepared for the worst conditions.