The alarm was set off after the motor of an elevator caught on fire, said UT Police Department Sgt. Wayne Coffey. No injuries were reported and the building was cleared within the hour.
“There was more smoke than fire,” he said.
The elevators in the building were turned off while UTPD waited for maintenance, Coffey said. Five fire trucks and multiple EMS units were on standby and sections of the streets surrounding the building were closed off, including Whitis Avenue and lanes on Guadalupe Street and Dean Keeton. Multiple fire department units entered the building to investigate the reported fire.
The alarm went off during the dedication of the College of Communication Plaza to legendary journalist and former Longhorn Walter Cronkite, but did not interrupt the ceremony.
Frost-covered roads following Fridays wintry weather led to more than 400 accidents in and around the Austin area, according to the Austin Police Department.
The subfreezing weather that began Tuesday afternoon did not result in dangerous conditions until precipitation caused the roads to become slick and icy beginning late Thursday night. Nearly 205 reported collisions occurred between 10 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday, and more than 121 additional collisions occurred between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday, mostly from people driving too fast for the weather conditions, said APD Lt. Wayne Demoss.
Texans who arent accustomed to driving in icy weather also contributed to the rise in accidents around Austin, said UT Police Department Sgt. Jose Peña.
The roads seem like theyre very clear and, all of a sudden, drivers will hit shady areas, he said. Thats what happened on Dean Keeton [Street] with all of the buildings blocking the sun the areas were still frozen, and some drivers werent being too careful when driving through them.
UTPD did not receive any reports of collisions on campus before 1 p.m. Friday, Peña said.
Its definitely because classes were canceled it reduced the volume of traffic, Peña said. All the surrounding areas have a steady flow of traffic, so thats where all the accidents were.
UTPD normally responds to about two to three accidents per day, and nine vehicles crashed on Dean Keeton Street at around 1:30 p.m. Friday, said UTPD Sgt. Wayne Coffey.
Speed has a lot to do with it, he said. People arent paying attention to the changing road conditions.
None of the collisions and traffic accidents in Austin resulted in fatalities or injuries because they were mostly fender-benders, he said.
Roads and intersections were closed for deicing Friday, including 15th Street and Lamar Boulevard, and sections of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, San Antonio, Cesar Chavez and Nueces streets.
When we have weather like this, we dont like to close roads because if you close a main road, people will just get on side streets, which are even worse than the main roads because they dont get any deicing, Demoss said. We try not to close any of the major thoroughfares if we dont have to, the rule has been if a sand truck can get up there to it, then we wont close it, but there were some areas on Friday that were just too steep to get to.
Sand trucks ran through the night and morning to increase traction on the roads, especially on areas going uphill or downhill, he said.
A large number of calls came in to assist motorists who didnt get into collisions, but were stuck in an icy area and couldnt move, Demoss said.
Everybody thinks that accidents cant happen to them, but yes they will and they do. I would dare to say that a lot of people who were on the road didnt really have to be but chose to be, Demoss said.
APD Cmdr. Jason Dusterhoft said when it began snowing, people didnt realize there was ice underneath overpasses and in areas sand trucks had not reached.
People were driving too fast and werent slowing down quick enough, and theyd lose control of their cars on the ice, Dusterhoft said.
Prior to the storm Thursday night, the freezing temperatures did not cause the number of traffic accidents to rise higher than normal, Dusterhoft said.
We havent really had any issues before [Thursday], Dusterhoft said. We had to close several intersections Friday morning and overpasses due to how much ice was there, and until the trucks got there we couldnt open them up. Most locations, if not all, were open by noon.
Drivers may get another chance to hone their skills when another cold front hits the Austin area Wednesday.
UTPD reported a nine-car accidents off of Dean Keeton Street.
APD reported more than 325 accidents between Thursday and Friday.
Travis County Sheriffs Office reported about 90 accidents.
0 fatalities or serious injuries