One man died and several others were injured in western Kentucky, while authorities were slammed with a high number of vehicle wrecks Thursday morning caused by treacherous driving conditions.
More than 75 wrecks were reported by state police, with more investigated by other officers in McCracken and Marshall counties, after a thin sheet of ice coated Interstate 24, the Purchase Parkway and secondary roads. Call after call came in during the morning commute, leaving drivers in ditches and waiting for help, Trooper Jay Thomas said.
"It was one of those mornings where things start to go downhill, and they went in a hurry," said Keith Todd with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. "It was just one wreck after another and the wrecks slowed down the road crews because they had to work around them."
The only reported fatality occurred Thursday morning in Livingston County, where a wreck fatally injured 79-year-old Paul A. Davis of Salem. Davis' vehicle collided with a car on Ky. 723 nearly head-on. That car, driven by Clayton Barnes, 25, also of Salem, rolled onto one side. Davis' car slipped into a culvert. He was pronounced dead at Livingston County Hospital.
In McCracken County, Sheriff Jon Hayden said deputies responded to more wrecks involving the slippery roads than during the ice and snow storm in mid- December. There were several injury wrecks on I-24, along with others on U.S. 60. A three-vehicle wreck on I-24 near the Clark's River bridge sent one person to the hospital. Later, two vehicles slid off the interstate between the 9 and 14-mile markers. A third wreck, caused by the traffic backup of the previous incidents, involved three vehicles at the 10-mile marker and sent one woman to a hospital.
Friendship Road between Lone Oak Road and U.S. 62 was shut down briefly because of ice.
"It kind of crept up on a lot of people," Hayden said. "They weren't expecting it, and they weren't prepared to drive slowly or be ready for issues."
In Graves County, the sheriff's department reported three wrecks that left none injured caused by sliding cars.
Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars said his deputies were responding to wrecks on both I-24 and the Purchase Parkway. Most of the collisions did not involve injuries, Byars said, but the roads froze so quickly that it caught motorists by surprise.
"Even when I was on my way up to respond to some of these accidents, the cruiser would slip and slide and it was as if I was going to go off the side of an exit," Byars said. "They were pretty slick."
Todd said road crews hoped that Thursday's winds would dry the roads to prevent freezing overnight for this morning's commute. The trucks also face impending snow and rain, which is slated to hit the region Saturday night or Sunday. Todd said crews most likely won't pre-treat the roads with salt because the storm will begin with ice, and frigid temperatures plummeting into the single digits will make any salt or compounds ineffective.
"Any moisture on the roads when it's that cold is going to be a problem," Todd said. "We are already watching and those cold temperatures are going to be a major issue."
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.