Responding Nonstop: 'This Winter Has Just Been Absolutely Miserable '

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – No time for a break.

This winter is keeping many crews busy. Towing services and the Iowa State Patrol are constantly responding to calls for help from motorists.

Sunday was anything but a day off for the crew at Darrah's Towing. Tow truck dispatchers said they haven't had any down time in weeks.

"The last month has been the busiest month since I started working here. Every shift, as soon as I walk in the front door, out the back door and one tow right after the other -- the whole time," Tow Truck Driver Gary Hamer said.

Business is booming, and crews are towing away all kinds of vehicles.

"They are breaking because they hit a pothole, and all the parts are real cold, and they break," Hamer said. "They are sliding through intersections and getting in accidents. Snow removal -- people are leaving their car in the street and police have us come get those. People are locking their keys in their car, because they will start it up to warm it up."

The intense winter weather is also keeping the state patrol going non-stop.

"For some reason, this winter has just been absolutely miserable for us out here," Iowa State Patrol Trooper Eric Payne said.

In his eighth year on the job, Trooper Payne can't get over the sheer number of crashes on area highways this winter. During the sunny Sunday, alone, he responded to three crashes.

He also rushed to a big scene on Interstate 80 in Coralville on Saturday morning. The trooper said the snow lead to slippery conditions on the road.

"In my time on with the patrol, I've never seen anything like that here [Saturday]," Trooper Payne said. "The sheer volume of the vehicles and the magnitude of the damage that was involved was just incredible, and we are very, very fortunate that nobody was seriously injured out of that."

Thirty vehicles were stacked up on the highway, keeping the road closed for about three hours. Many of them were semis. One truck spilled thousands of glass jars on the road.

Despite the wreckage, the trooper said he witnessed some warmth in the bitter cold.

"They are sharing hand warmers; they are sharing blankets and coats. Those vehicles that were able to run, people were opening up their cars to allow them to sit in the heat and other complete strangers just to stay warm in their vehicles, even though they just got in an accident together," Trooper Payne said.

Just a few weeks ago, a different crash involving 30 cars also tied up traffic for hours on Interstate 80. The crash also damaged a trooper's car.

Trooper Payne said people need to remember to slow down and increase your following distance. That will help prevent another crash or emergency call for a tow. Emergency responders say they want to make sure there are no more 30 car pileups anywhere.
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