Central and North Whidbey first responders stayed busy Monday morning as snow and ice descended upon Whidbey Island. However, South Whidbey and Oak Harbor officials said they had fewer than expected calls due to weather.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS Deputy Chief Mike Cotton said there were very few calls related to the weather. There was one car in a ditch reported near the Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club. Jon Gabelein, a spokesman for the district, said responders found two other incidents of cars off the road Monday as well. A ground-level fall reported may have also been related to the ice, he said.
Tuesday morning a car went off the road and hit a tree near Coles Road, Gabelein said. There were no injuries.
As temperatures are expected to remain low, Cotton suggested people take it slow, plan routes carefully and be mindful that ice is melting and freezing in different areas.
Deputy Chief Charlie Smith, of Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue, said the district more than doubled its average rate of daily calls Monday. Starting in the early morning hours, Central Whidbey Fire received 12 calls when it normally averages three to five in a day, he said. The count didn’t include reports that hadn’t been completed as of Tuesday morning.
Four of those calls were car accidents directly related to the icy conditions. A rollover on Engle Road resulted in two patients transported to WhidbeyHealth Medical Center with minor injuries suspected. The others were non-injury incidents.
Smith said the main challenge was to ensure the district’s vehicles didn’t add to the hazards. Monday morning, firefighters were in the process of putting chains on some of the vehicles as they were also slipping on the icy roads, he said. The road conditions also slowed the response time because they couldn’t drive as quickly on some of the roads.
Yesterday, he said responders didn’t use lights or sirens over concern other cars may end up off the road if they tried to pull over too quickly.
“Everybody’s having a hard time staying in the lane already,” he said. “We’re trying to be mindful and not create more problems then we’re trying to solve.”
As the ice sticks around, he said it is helpful for people to stay off the roads if possible. Although most main roadways are cleared, he said that side roads in shady areas still present a danger, especially of black ice.
North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Mark Kirko said the district received around seven calls for car accidents with no injuries reported. Most calls were cars sliding off the roadway and didn’t involved collisions.
Oak Harbor Fire Chief Ray Merrill said firefighters responded to two minor car accidents with no reported injuries.
“It’s a lot less than I expected,” he said.