Whiteout crash

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:36 PM

Many drivers failed to safely negotiate slick roads Tuesday, resulting in a number of vehicles sliding off and crashing during heavy lake-effect snow.

A Sand Lake man was injured in one of the more serious crashes, which happened shortly before 1:30 p.m. on westbound I-96 near Coopersville. Police said Cody Stambaugh, 19, suffered serious injuries when his 2002 Chevrolet Blazer clipped the back of a semi-truck and rolled into a ditch west of 68th Avenue.

Stambaugh was driving west on the interstate and couldn’t avoid hitting the large truck that had just jackknifed in front of him, said Sgt. Steve Austin of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.

The driver of the 2007 Volvo semi — Jermaine Foxworth, 40, of Illinois — was not injured.

Austin said Foxworth lost control of his westbound truck, which swerved to the left into the median and the trailer jackknifed into the westbound lanes.

Eric Anderson of Muskegon said he looked up when his step-dad said, “Oh, no.” He said the SUV was about 100 yards in front of their pickup truck.

“He just came off sideways, hit the ditch and flipped,” Anderson said.

Coopersville-Polkton and Crockery Township firefighters worked to extricate Stambaugh before he was taken by ambulance to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Stambaugh was wearing a seat belt, Austin said.

The westbound lanes of the highway were closed for about three hours after the crash.

The truck driver received a ticket for driving too fast for conditions.

Austin said motorists need to "drive slow, stay attentive, stay focused on your driving and leave plenty of room for the vehicles ahead of you" during winter weather conditions.

Staci Stevens-Venhuizen said driving from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven on Tuesday afternoon was treacherous. The Spring Lake woman said she experienced a few whiteouts and saw scattered cars off the roadway prior to coming to an area east of Marne on westbound I-96 where several cars went into the ditch.

“The highway was like ice,” Stevens-Venhuizen said. “We all had our flashers on so nobody would come up fast behind us.”

Cold temperatures and strong winds creating low wind chills were having an effect on the chemicals used to clear snow and ice off the roads. National Weather Service meteorologist Jared Maples said a road commission official told him there could be considerable refreezing.

The lake-effect system dumped up to 4 inches of snow in some areas Tuesday. The snow fell an inch an hour in Wayland, Maples said.

Temperatures in the high teens and low 20s were expected to continue through the week, with snow possible through Thursday, Maples said.

“There will be pockets of moderate and heavy snow, wind and whiteout conditions,” he said. “Drive with care.”

Winds are expected to die down Thursday. A weekend storm system will give the area another shot at more snowfall, Maples said.


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