Thursday’s winter weather caused the perfect storm for a weekend full of skating vehicles, exploding pipes and preventable accidents.
The most serious accident happened when a 67-year-old man tripped on his dog and landed on an oil-filled space heater around 1:30 a.m. Saturday in the 1000 block of South Goodfellow Road, said Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi.
The man suffered second-degree burns to his abdomen and was airlifted to a Valley burn center.
The police department kept busy answering calls for 13 accidents, 30 vehicle slide-offs and 48 calls for frozen pipes Thursday evening through Sunday night, said Chief Don Engler.
None of the accidents involved serious injuries and most motorists only required minor assistance to get back on the road.
The weekend’s busy traffic in town came as a surprise to emergency responders as the Rim Country’s outlying communities were hit harder with weather and therefore normally more accidents.
However, in Star Valley and Pine-Strawberry, both fire chiefs reported few incidents.
In P-S, Chief David Staub said a few snowplows skimmed off the road along with a halfdozen motorists. Only a handful of residents called about frozen pipes. The same held true for Hellsgate Fire Department. Chief Gary Hatch said Monday they are mainly concerned with residents in Mead and Collin Ranch, where frozen pipes are cutting off drinking water.
For the Gila County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to 13 agency assists, two accidents with injuries, 16 slide-offs and nine calls involving property damage from the storm, said Lt. Tim Scott, with the sheriff’s office.
In town, when officers weren’t busy helping stranded motorists, they were keeping sledders off a hill near Walmart, Engler said.
The hill, at the intersection of Malibu Drive and Highway 87, is a popular site for sled enthusiasts.
On Saturday, the snow-covered hill was taken over by kids in snow bibs and parents snapping photos.
Every time an officer would shoo them away, another group would return no more than 30 minutes later, Engler said.
Because the hill drops off into the street, police worried someone would sail into the highway.
For safety, police stretched yellow “Do Not Cross” tape around the hill, which seemed to do the trick.