Rain turned to ice Thursday morning, canceling the school day for students and causing drivers to slide off county streets.
The county experienced heavy sleet about 6:45 a.m. with accumulations of slush on roadways.
There were many reports of accidents, with several vehicles sliding into ditches, including two Columbia County school buses. The buses were not carrying passengers, and no injuries were reported.
Columbia County schools closed for the day after buses started reporting ice accumulations on bridges.
"And then in the northwest area of the county - our more rural area, we started having problems, particularly with our smaller buses slipping on the roadway," said Shirley Doolittle, the Columbia County school system's director of transportation. "I had some buses in subdivisions where it's more of a country setting, and they were having some slipping problems. I had two buses which slid into a ditch, but not seriously."
Buses weren't the only vehicles slipping and sliding. By 4 p.m., the Columbia County Sheriff's Office had reported 57 accidents, with no serious injuries.
"First thing this morning we were slammed," said Ann Cushman, owner of Cushman Paint and Body in Evans.
From 7:40 a.m. to 10 a.m., Cushman tow trucks responded to nine accidents, compared to the one or two wrecks the company typically sees during the morning driving period.
"It was mostly people driving off the road," Cushman said. "There was one person that did go off the road, and we had to saw a tree off the car. She had ran up under the tree. It was mainly people slipping and sliding."
Honey Shore, spokeswoman for Martinez Volunteer Fire Department, said the department responded to three accidents Thursday morning. Only one at Columbia Industrial Park at Evans-to-Locks Road required extrication because the woman's car door was jammed and she could not get out.
Harold Wright, manager of the wrecker service at Rick's Paint and Body Shop, said he had about seven calls between 6 and 9 a.m. - about half the number he usually gets in a day.
"All of them were people losing control," he said, "going down embankments and so forth."
Dan Gates, director of Gold Cross, said most of the injuries the ambulance service saw were minor.
"We've had a bunch of little stuff, but nothing major," he said. "We hear all the stuff from the sheriff's department, and at one time they had 21 calls from different locations off of I-20 in Columbia County."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.