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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Todd Gladd straightens the frame of a vehicle Wednesday at Fox & Fox at 512 Van Buren St.

Storms, slick roads take toll on drivers

Ranti

This winter is taking no prisoners.

“I wasn’t even driving fast and that’s what makes me really mad,” said Dan Ranti, a Fort Wayne electrician who lost control of his 2006 Chevy Silverado on Wednesday morning. “I was going maybe 20 mph and tried to stop and slid 20 or 30 feet. It’s crazy.”

Evan Bentley, a staff meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there’s no snow in the forecast today, but temperatures will dip to between minus 5 and 10 degrees tonight.

“We could get a couple more inches over the weekend,” he said.

Great.

To say Fort Wayne has been dumped on this winter would be an understatement, but some businesses are busy as a result. Collision and repair shops, rental car companies and similar places have had a steady flow of customers.

Sara Holtgrave is office manager at Fox & Fox collision center at 512 Van Buren St. She said while snow-related crashes haven’t made things “crazy,” the operation has seen its share of tire rim straightening, alignments, alternator and battery replacements – and, yes, bang-ups.

“We’ve had them, but nothing too out of the ordinary,” she said. “Mostly, people that have been putting repairs off are finding out they can’t put them off anymore.”

Adam Beckstedt manages 14/69 Auto Body off Illinois Road. He said the snow hasn’t left idle hands at the shop.

“It’s always busy around this time of year, so we’re not seeing anything out of the norm,” Beckstedt said. “It’s been about average.”

He said workers at his center took in about a dozen new customers Wednesday.

Ranti, unfortunately, was one of them.

“I had the day off, so I figured I’d treat myself to breakfast,” said Ranti, whose pickup truck slid into another vehicle at Coldwater and Wallen roads. “The place I wanted to go to was closed, so I decided to go to IHOP. That’s when it happened.”

Rob Hamman owns Robinson’s Wrecker Service, 1721 Lincoln Highway E. in New Haven. The towing service received about 50 distress calls by 2 p.m. Wednesday. And the phone kept ringing.

To put it in perspective, the towing service received 800 calls for the entire month of January, a record for the company. It was twice as many calls as the 24-hour towing service had received for any January in the 15 years Hamman has owned the business. Robinson’s has 31 trucks that tow semis, trucks and cars.

All the company’s trucks were on the road Wednesday.

“We actually could use more four-wheel-drives because it’s so hard to get to the people if the roads aren’t plowed,” Hamman said.

That’s been the biggest obstacle to providing service. If country roads aren’t plowed, the towing service sometimes has to wait to get to customers or plow the road with its own trucks. But the crews do follow through.

“We don’t leave anybody hanging,” Hamman said.

State Farm Insurance received 21 percent more auto claims for accidents and emergency road service nationwide in December than last year, spokeswoman Missy Dundov said. She didn’t have immediate access to Indiana-only data.

Although the statistic is national, the majority of winter claims are from the Midwest and East Coast, Dundov said.

The company doesn’t have auto claims data yet for January, but preliminary numbers indicate another increase, she said. The Bloomington, Ill.-based company insures one of every four vehicles in Indiana.

About 40 percent of State Farm auto insurance policyholders nationwide pay extra for rental car coverage, which provides them with transportation while their vehicle is in the shop for repairs after an accident, Dundov said.

Scott Robinson, a local State Farm agent, said his office at 4705 Illinois Road has received more claims than usual this winter for emergency road service and total loss from accidents.

Robinson advises clients to make sure they have emergency supplies before heading out. He also suggests allowing extra travel time when the roads are snow- or ice-covered. He advises contacting your insurance agent as soon as possible after an accident to speed up the claims process.

sslater@jg.net

pwyche@jg.net

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