'Anchor ice' on highways makes for white-knuckle travel

Stubborn scabs of so-called "anchor ice" that encrusted New Brunswick roads after Thursday's weather bomb made for perilous driving over the weekend and into Monday.

Anchor ice is causing problems drivers and pedestrians alike

According to Musquash Fire Department, there have been six accidents so far.

Stubborn scabs of so-called "anchor ice" that encrusted New Brunswick roads after Thursday's weather bomb made for perilous driving over the weekend and into Monday.

"Conditions were pretty brutal," said Kevin Barrett, who took 2½ hours to drive his family from Quispamsis to Fredericton on Saturday afternoon so his daughter could participate in a figure skating tournament.

Barrett said the highway was so bumpy, drivers had to reduce their speeds to under 60 kilometres an hour on the way to the capital and to about 50 km/h on the way back Saturday evening.

Video taken from their jerky road trip, shows the uneven surface of the highway and captures the sound of the constant vibration.

Barrett said some of the other parents travelling the same route agreed that the worst "white-knuckle driving" started after Grand Bay-Westfield, running north on Route 7, a section of highway maintained by the province.

6 accidents in Musquash

The Musquash Fire Department reported six accidents between Friday evening and Sunday evening, all within a few kilometres of each other, including four separate rollovers near the Musquash Marsh sign.

Drivers involved in four of the accidents had to be taken to hospital, said Musquash Chief Wayne Pollock.

Pollock said one rollover victim had a particularly difficult ordeal because she got into her accident while driving to Beaver Harbour, where her parents' house was on fire.

Emergency workers at the scene of that fire had to leave to respond to her accident.

"We had to extricate her out of the vehicle," Pollock said.

Emergency workers had to peel back the windshield to get the driver out. (Wayne Polluck/Submitted)

"Had to cut the roof off to get her out. So, you know, that was a sad day for that family for sure."

Pollock said he'd like to see more warning signs posted by Gateway Operations, the company responsible for maintaining Route 1.

Bad sidewalks

Donna Black, a lifelong resident of Saint John, wouldn't walk up King Street without putting rubber traction cleats over her boots.

Even then, she walked gingerly, with eyes on the ground and hands at the ready to stop a fall.

She said she learned her lesson the hard way after slipping Friday on Prince William Street.

"I went into this contortionist break dance and ended up … looking like I'd won a game of Twister," she said.

"I didn't hurt myself but everything kind of wrenched."

Black said she's concerned about seniors and anyone with mobility issues who needs to get around but can't, safely.

'Below roughly [minus] 12 degrees Celsius or so, our de-icing salts are not effective anymore.' - Michael  Hugenholtz , City of Saint John

She said she'd like to see business and building owners do more to clear the sidewalk space outside their storefronts.

"The city can only do so much and I think that they really are making an effort," she said.

Salts don't work in extreme cold

"We'd have challenging conditions," said Michael Hugenholtz, commissioner of transportation and environment services for the City of Saint John.

"We got the snow and then of course we got into this deep freeze.

Michael Hugenholtz, commissioner of transportation for Saint John, says de-icing salts aren't effective when the temperature drops below -12 C.

"Below roughly [minus] 12 degrees Celsius or so, our de-icing salts are not effective anymore."

Hugenholtz said the city has dispatched graders to do some ice cutting on the roads.

"They're about the only machine that we have that can put down-pressure on the plow blades to scrape up some of that ice," he said.

Hugenholtz said he expected road and sidewalk conditions to improve Monday afternoon and on following days, partly because of slightly higher temperatures and plans by city crews to apply more rock salt and sand.

Anchor ice 

It's a similar outlook in neighbouring communities such as Quispamsis, where Gary Losier said a few degrees can mean the difference between the rock salt working or not.

"This past weekend, what we found was that we were fighting what's called anchor ice," said Losier, director of engineering and works with the Town of Quispamsis.

Anchor ice is like a crust on roads, and can make driving a challenge.

"It's when snow gets packed down on the roadway and you've got the cold asphalt, the cold weather, and minus 30 windchill.

"So you've got snow pack and then it gets wet. Now it all of a sudden changes to ice. It's very difficult to get rid of."

Losier said his crews were hoping for a break, an afternoon of sunshine to soften up the ice and help the rock salt go to work.

Sidewalks are often the most difficult to manage because the water in snowbanks melts, pools and freezes, over and over, he said.