Freezing rain means more hospital visits

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Spring is only 60 days away. Really.

It just feels like it will be winter forever, especially after Tuesday, when Mother Nature laid a layer of ice on the region that made driving and walking equally treacherous.

Widespread freezing rain that fell from 11 p.m. Monday to about 5 a.m. Tuesday literally added injury to the insult of a winter that has recorded below-normal temperatures for more than a month and a half. The slippery footing sent more than 140 people to seven hospital emergency rooms in the region, nearly all for injuries that ranged from twisted ankles to broken legs and wrists and head injuries.

UPMC Mercy was so busy treating about 50 such patients that an extra doctor was summoned and another was asked to start his shift early, said UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner.

Meanwhile, roadways seemed like bumper-car rides -- only more dangerous -- as even Pittsburgh salt trucks, six of them in all, were involved in ice-related crashes. The only saving grace was that the hazardous conditions didn't last long as temperatures climbed above freezing before 10 a.m.

West Penn Allegheny Health System spokesman Dan Laurent said about 40 patients with ice-related injuries sought treatment in the emergency rooms of Allegheny General Hospital, Alle-Kiski Medical Center, Forbes Regional Hospital and Canonsburg General Hospital.

UPMC Shadyside treated about 30 people for ice-fall injuries by 9:30 a.m. and UPMC Presbyterian treated another 20 such patients.

Michael Turturro, chief of emergency services at UPMC Mercy, said most of the four dozen patients treated there for ice-related injuries -- fractured wrists, bruised wrists, twisted ankles -- fell near their homes, on untreated driveways, porches and walkways.

"Ice is the worst," Rob Kaczorowski, city public works director, said after six of his salt trucks crashed. "It doesn't matter what you're driving -- two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, a salt truck -- you hit an icy patch and you're gone."

Many people tried to travel despite weather forecasts that had warned of ice, and extensive news coverage of the treacherous conditions early Tuesday morning.

"I don't understand it," Mr. Kaczorowski said. "They had to go out for some apparent reason. Ice is very, very treacherous. Even seasoned professional drivers have a chance to be involved in an accident."

There's no rest anytime soon for the weather weary. Heavy snow is possible Thursday night through Friday with temperatures decreasing to a high of around 20 degrees that day.

Staff writer Jon Schmitz contributed. Michael A. Fuoco: or 412-263-1968.


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