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Delta jet among area transportation casualties from Monday snowstorm
WINTER WEATHER

Delta jet among area transportation casualties from Monday snowstorm

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Planes, trains and automobiles came to a screeching halt Monday afternoon when a fast-moving storm dumped nearly three inches of snow on the Madison area and created an icy transportation nightmare.

No serious injuries were reported from a slew of snow-related incidents, including a Boeing 737-800 jet operated by Delta Air Lines that slid off a taxiway just after it landed at about 4 p.m. at the Dane County Regional Airport, authorities said. The airport was closed for less than an hour after the incident.

An hour later, a train collided with a car that was stuck on the tracks in heavy traffic at the intersection of John Nolen Drive and Olin Avenue, according to Madison police Sgt. Tim Patton.

The driver of the car was unhurt even though he had remained in his vehicle and tried to pull forward when it was struck.

John Nolen Drive was closed for about 20 minutes, further snarling an already messy traffic situation at the height of the evening commute, Patton said.

“It was a bad day for mass transit,” Patton added. “But considering that planes and trains were involved and nobody was hurt, that was a pretty good day.”

Delta Flight 385 from Minneapolis-St. Paul slid off a taxiway and stopped in the snow just after exiting the main runway, airport spokesman Brent McHenry said.

The 60 passengers and six crew were bused to the terminal less than 45 minutes after the incident, McHenry added.

Passengers said it wasn’t a particularly dramatic experience.

They felt the plane land like normal, passenger Kevin Fearon said, but as it slowly moved toward the terminal it seemed to slide and miss a turn.

“It just kept going straight,” said Fearon. “You felt that it was skidding.”

“Just like a car when you can’t stop,” said Denise Penn, who also was on the flight. “That was it — it was really a non-event.”

Fearon admitted to letting out a yell as the plane slid. When he and fellow passenger Chris Leo arrived at baggage claim, a Delta employee greeted them with vouchers worth $100 off their next flight.

Crews from the Madison Fire Department responded to the incident, spokeswoman Lori Wirth said.

Although it was snowing at the time, McHenry said he didn’t know if the taxiway was snow-covered when the jet slid off it.

He said the process of keeping runways and taxiways clear begins before snow starts to accumulate on the ground.

“It’s a very rare occurrence that these types of incidents happen,” McHenry said.

The last time a passenger jet slid off a taxiway or runway at the airport, according to State Journal archives, was Dec. 2, 2007, when United Express Flight 7258 from Chicago failed to turn onto a taxiway from the runway in icy conditions. There were no injuries in that incident.

Monday’s storm, which the National Weather Service said dropped 2.7 inches of snow at the Dane County airport, began early in the afternoon and immediately started causing problems on roads in Dane County.

The car that was struck by the train tried to move out of its way but traffic ahead of it kept it from moving completely off the tracks, Patton said.

The train hit the back end of the car, which was pushed into the car that was in front of it, Patton added.

Dozens of cars slid off icy roadways into snowy ditches on county roads, said Lt. Kerry Porter of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.

“The temperatures were so cold that any moisture was just sticking on the roads and they iced up,” Porter said.

He said sheriff’s deputies were tied up dealing with crashes until the storm moved out of the area around 6 p.m.

“It was pretty steady but we didn’t have any significant crashes,” Porter said. “They were all non-injury.”

— State Journal reporter Nico Savidge contributed to this report.

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Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.

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