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Storm produces icy roads, accidents follow

Snow and rain have graced Pagosa Country as a result of an unusual winter storm in the last week, creating hazardous driving conditions and increasing the risk of traffic accidents.

Much of the snow has been confined to Wolf Creek Pass, to the delight of snow enthusiasts, but not to the delight of travelers.

A collision Friday afternoon on Wolf Creek Pass matched a 1993 Pontiac with a 2007 Peterbuilt tractor trailer hauling a load of propane.

According to Colorado State Patrol spokesman Doug Wiersma, the driver of the Pontiac, 19-year-old Elizabeth Bush, of Durango, was motoring downhill on Wolf Creek Pass too fast for conditions and lost control while passing another vehicle.

The Pontiac slid broadside in front of the semi, which subsequently hit the car.

The semi, owned by Monte Vista Coop, was driven by 27-year-old Trevor Lester, of South Fork.

Bush was injured in the collision, extricated from the vehicle and airlifted to Mercy Medical Center in Durango with serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.

Lester was not injured.

Bush was cited for driving too fast for conditions.

A Monday morning roll-over accident left one passenger with minor injuries.

Cory B. Riddle, 21, from Hennessey, Okla., was traveling eastbound on U.S. 160 near mile marker 155 at about 7:45 a.m. when his 2004 Ford F150 truck hydroplaned across the road, according to Wiersma.

The truck, carrying Riddle and three passengers — a 21-year-old male, 21-year-old female and 20-year-old female — struck a tree on the left side of the road, overturned, and struck another tree, Wiersma said.

One of the passengers sustained minor injuries in the crash. None of the occupants were wearing seat belts.

Riddle was cited for not using a seat belt and improper mountain driving, Wiersma said.

Several other vehicles left roadways throughout Pagosa Country during this week’s storm as snow and slush accumulated at lower elevations.

If travel in winter conditions is necessary, extreme caution should be practiced.

The Colorado Department of Transportation lists the following winter driving tips on its website:

• Be sure to carry plenty of windshield wiper fluid as liquid de-icers may stick to your windshield.

• Let the snowplow drivers do their jobs by giving them extra room.

• Slow down! Even roads that have been treated with liquid de-icers may be slippery.

• Don’t use cruise control when traveling in winter conditions.

• Be prepared. Have a scraper, snow brush, coat, hat, gloves, blanket, first aid kit, flashlight, tire chains, matches and nonperishable food in your car.

• Make sure your tires have good tread.

randi@pagosasun.com