Sudden hailstorm pounds Valley

February 28, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

A sudden burst of hail combined with the already rain-soaked conditions played havoc with motorists in the Imperial Valley Tuesday, as 12 people were involved in three accidents, causing a major traffic jam at Interstate 8 at Fourth Street.

Roberto Fernandez, 46, of Calexico was transported to El Centro Regional Medical Center with moderate injuries after the minivan he was driving collided with and was wedged under a trailer being pulled by a truck.

At 3:10 p.m., Fernandez was traveling east on I-8 at a speed of about 55 mph when he didn't see the truck and its trailer ahead of him, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The truck was traveling at a speed of about 40 mph on the interstate because of the road and weather conditions, the CHP reported.


Fernandez applied the brakes of the minivan but was unable to stop before the collision. The minivan wedged under the frame of the trailer.

The driver of the truck, Joaquin Rangel, 26, of Mexicali, was uninjured and was able to drive the truck and trailer after the minivan was unwedged from under the trailer.

In a separate accident around the same time, three vehicles were involved in a collision in the eastbound lanes of I-8 east of Fourth Street.

According to the CHP, Diane Delashmutt, 67, of Yuma, was driving a sedan in the left lane at speeds deemed unsafe for the weather conditions. The road was wet and covered with hail.

The sedan collided with the rear of a sport-utility vehicle in the left lane, causing it to sideswipe a truck pulling a travel trailer in the right lane.

Delashmutt was transported to El Centro Regional Medical Center with minor injuries.

The driver of the SUV, John Shepperd, 69, and his passenger, Pat Shepperd, 66, both of Peshastin, Wash., sustained minor injuries in the collision. Information on whether and where the Shepperds were transported for treatment of their injuries was not available this morning.

The driver of the truck, Rodger Williams, 54, and his passenger Sharon Williams, 59, both of Grass Valley, were uninjured.

Shortly after the other two accidents, a sedan carrying four Calexico residents collided with an SUV in the eastbound lanes of I-8 east of Fourth Street.

According to the CHP, the sedan was traveling at unsafe speeds for prevailing conditions. The car collided with the rear of the SUV.

The driver of the sedan, Mauricio Lopez, 65, was transported to ECRMC with minor injuries. His passengers, Armida Lopez, 57, and a 10- and 7-year-old boy were uninjured.

The driver of the SUV, Barry Julian, 30, of Yuma, was uninjured.

All three accidents are under investigation.

Multiple agencies responded to the scene, including the Highway Patrol, the Imperial County Sheriff's Office and the El Centro police and fire departments.

Between 2:53 p.m. and 9:33 p.m., seven traffic collisions were reported to El Centro CHP.

Hail, though not often seen in the Imperial Valley, "is typical with thunderstorms in winter," said County Meteorologist Jim Christopherson.

Tuesday's hail was a brief burst that covered some areas of the Valley and missed others, Christopherson said.

"The center of that storm system moved in yesterday and a line of thunderstorms around its center moved into San Diego and Imperial counties. That was late yesterday afternoon," Christopherson said.

Hail seen in spring and summer storms is usually large, although Tuesday's hail was smaller as is typical with winter storms.

Imperial Valley residents can expect a lot more sunshine today and tomorrow and temperatures of 65 degrees. Expect highs of 69 degrees for the weekend with continued heavy dew at night and patchy fog.

Since Sunday, .83 of an inch of rain has fallen on El Centro with .36 of that coming down Tuesday, Christopherson said.

The yearly average for Imperial County is 3 inches and "we're almost up to a third of our supply," Christopherson said.

Staff Writer Richard Montenegro contributed to this story.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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