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Montana troopers prepare for worst after first wave of snow

'Nightmare situations' can happen quickly in poor conditions
Posted at 10:42 AM, Oct 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-11 12:42:52-04

Montana Highway Patrol troopers want Montanans to know that changes in the weather won't change the way they do their jobs.

Trooper Tyler DiGiovanna said that situations like Wednesday's snowstorm, which caused several accidents across the state, stir up memories of past nightmare cases and ways for troopers like him to stay safe in the elements.

"We gotta push the limit as safely as possible," he said.

Trooper DiGiovanna has been patrolling Gallatin County for about a year and a half.

Scenes such as these come with the snow and the territory.

"We'll just say hey, dispatch, where do you need us?" DiGiovanna said. "And we're dispatched to pretty much the most serious one."

But the powder can turn a normal drive into a dangerous one quickly.

"Just one person not paying attention, going over one bridge, can change, can shut down the interstate for hours."

As in a terrifying case back in 2015 near Missoula when a semi driver lost control on icy roads, smashing through another crash.

A woman, who had been in a wrecked car that was thrown into the median, narrowly missed getting hit by another out-of-control car. Luckily, everyone survived that crash.

Several troopers also experienced near-misses.

But it is a worst-case scenario that DiGiovanna said could happen in an instant.

"Is anyone hurt out there? How quickly do we need to respond because it is dangerous, us driving in those conditions, as well,” DiGiovanna said. "I was out, investigating a crash and I've had cars sliding off the road right next to me and that's… there is so much going on at that time that you're not thinking of exactly the danger to yourself."

While the snow from Wednesday's storm is melting, he said he and his fellow troopers are ready for the next wave.

"Crashes, they happen where the road is the worst,” he said. “So when people see those flashing lights, they need to slow down, recognize that something's going on up there and react appropriately."

Trooper DiGiovanna said if you see those flashing lights, get over as safely as possible.

He understands if you can't but if you can't, the next plan should be to not panic, slow down and stick your course, keeping aware of your surroundings.