WELLINGTON COUNTY – No one was seriously injured, but police responded to hundreds of calls across the county between Dec. 23 and 26, during what was likely the worst winter storm here in several years.
Spokesperson Josh Cunningham said Wellington County OPP received over 500 calls over those four days, about 200 of them likely directly linked to the weather.
The storm produced blizzard-like conditions for days, which resulted in closed roads and facilities and caused numerous power outages.
There were several warming centres opened during the storm to assist stranded motorists.
“Without a doubt, the severe weather significantly impacted emergency services,” Cunningham stated in a Dec. 29 email.
“We’d like to thank all those who did take warnings seriously, it allowed services to work at full tilt.
“We had plenty of drivers who learned a valuable lesson about winter driving and thankfully it didn’t come at the cost of any lives.”
Cunningham explained the 200 or so calls related to the storm included those about dangerous conditions, abandoned vehicles, collisions, towed vehicles, traffic complaints, traffic control requests, and traffic hazards.
He added police officers focused on “engaging and educating drivers” charged with driving on a closed highway.
“Due to sheer volume of drivers disobeying closed road prohibitions and the high call volume, there was no way to accurately measure the number of drivers who disobeyed closures,” Cunningham told the Advertiser.
“I will say that officers found drivers’ ignorance or apathy trying.
“What many people do not realize is that when a highway is closed it changes the driveability of that section of highway.
“Shoulders may not be cleared, minimal roadway standards may not be met and workers and equipment maybe on the highway.”
Lots of drivers tried to argue a particular road was “drivable, but in fact it wasn’t up to snuff,” he added.
“Driver’s should check with their insurer to see if their vehicle’s insurance is valid when they drive on a closed highway.”
Cunningham added police are unable to say how many vehicles were towed over the course of the storm.
He noted none of the injuries sustained in collisions were life threatening and, due to officers’ heavy workload, “many investigations are still ongoing.”