Freezing rain, ice leave trail of injured in emergency rooms

Published: Friday, Jan. 25 2013 7:17 p.m. MST

A Box Elder School District bus was involved in an accident Friday morning, Jan. 25, 2013. The bus and a two-ton pickup were involved in a head-on collision west of Corinne. There were no serious injuries, although three students were taken to the Brigham City Hospital for further examination.

Shara Park, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Even after the roads had been cleared of the hundreds of crashes and the Salt Lake City International Airport had reopened, Utah's day of freezing rain Thursday continued to cause problems.

Well into Friday, Utahns with ice-related injuries trickled into emergency rooms.

"We saw the highest number of patients we've ever seen, ever, in one day," Bernadette Waldrop, director of emergency services at Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful, said Friday.

"With the influx, we opened an extra (emergency services) area and it looked like a drive-through for McDonald's at one point."

She said a typical day at Lakeview means about 45 visitors to the emergency room. Thursday, 103 sought care. Most of those, Waldrop said, were people who had fallen on ice.

"Everybody just pitched in and helped," Waldrop said. "Nobody was waiting long. We were able to ramp up and accommodate the need."

Jess Gomez at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray and Janet Frank at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo said they, too, saw a spike in patients after the freezing rain left a layer of ice on roads, sidewalks and driveways. Frank said patients continued to trickle in with injuries Friday morning, but the biggest influx was Thursday.

"We saw approximately 70 ice-related patients that came in," Frank said. "Because of those patients, we more than doubled our normal number of X-rays."

Frank said they saw a whole gamut of injuries, including one ice-related death. The staff at Utah Valley also redoubled their efforts to meet the needs of patients.

"It's almost like we're moving into what we would call our disaster mode," Frank said. "We call in people if we need it. Our emergency room's physicians group called in extra support and instead of staff going on a break for lunch, we brought food down to the emergency room for them."

Gomez said more than 100 patients were treated at Intermountain in Murray for ice-related injuries; LDS Hospital, Alta View Hospital in Sandy and Riverton Hospital all reported busy emergency rooms.

"The injuries have ranged from minor bumps and bruises and lacerations to more serious injuries, like back, neck and head injuries," Gomez said. "That's why you're prepared for anything and everything, so when those circumstances occur and you have a lot of patients come in, you're prepared for those. That's what we do, that's what we're here for."

Gomez attributed the busy emergency rooms to not only the ice, but the flu and those struggling with respiratory problems from inversion-caused bad air. He urged those with more minor injuries to consider visiting their primary care physician or an urgent care clinic before choosing an emergency room.

Jeniel Anderson was still in the hospital Friday after she slipped and fell, injuring her head, while trying to retrieve the newspaper in her driveway. She said it may be her last foray onto the driveway until spring.

"It's deceivingly slick, because it doesn't look slick, it looks wet," she said, joking that her injury was trendy. "I am in vogue, just doing what everyone else is doing."

Weather delays

The residual effects of the storm Friday continued to impact children and their parents  as both Davis School District and the Weber School District implemented a two-hour delay Friday morning, as well as various other private and charter schools in Davis and Weber Counties.

Davis also canceled its afternoon kindergarten.

Several children in Box Elder County were treated for minor injuries Friday morning after a school bus and a pickup collided head-on on a foggy road west of Corinne.

Bus No. 2201, which can hold 84 passengers, was about three-quarters full and headed to Century Elementary when it crashed with the pickup on state Route 13 near 2400 North around 8 a.m., Box Elder School District Superintendent Ron Wolff said. The two vehicles were apparently driving close to the middle of the road when they collided.

"Speeds were not significant," Wolff said.

Three children complaining of neck, wrist and head injuries were transported to Brigham City Hospital for further examination. The drivers of the two vehicles were uninjured.

Wolff said the pickup did not have its lights on. Parents of the students involved were called and many of them drove their children to school. Others were taken on another bus.

Fog limited visibility to approximately 100 yards in Box Elder County.

The forecast calls for the possibility of rain Saturday, but the Utah Division of Air Quality continued to forecast unhealthy air conditions for Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Tooele, Box Elder and Cache counties through the weekend.

KSL meteorologist Grant Weyman said a storm traveling east from California could lead to possible rain Saturday along the Wasatch Front followed by a forecast of snow Sunday night into Monday morning.

"This Sunday storm should really, really clean out the air," Weyman said. 

He said the snowfall could continue through Tuesday.

The storm headed over from California could result in rain in St. George, possibly through Monday. Highs for the weekend in St. George were 55 degrees on Saturday and 56 degrees on Sunday.

Contributing: Shara Park and Kathryn May

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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