Auto body shops slammed after first big snow


MISSOULA, Mont. - Authorities are finally able to catch their breath after treacherous driving conditions had them hustling from wreck to wreck Monday. Now, the frenzy has now moved to local auto body shops that are slammed with damaged vehicles. NBC Montana met with the owners of Russ's Body and Paint in Missoula and they tell us this first big snow caught a lot of drivers off-guard. The evidence -- their shop is full of cars damaged in winter collisions. Russ Kamura has worked in the auto repair business his entire life and he tells us his shop is always packed with damaged vehicles after the first big snow. "It takes four of us just to stay on top of it in a normal week," he tells us. "But with this ice and snow there are four of us at pretty much a dead run trying to keep up." He says just in the last two days they've had an additional 17 cars come in, damaged in weather-related crashes and considering they normally repair 25 cars a week it's quite the increase. "Numerous slide-ins, we're still seeing a few deer hits, but lots and lots of collision right now," Kamura says. He walked us around the yard to show us some examples of cars dented and destroyed due to icy driving conditions. Kamura pointed out one truck in particular that was damaged after the driver slammed into a bridge. "We've seen just minor ones from a cracked bumper to some pretty severe head-ons," he says. "People are hitting ice on the bridges and I've had a few totals towed in." Sheriff's Deputy Paige Pavalone tells NBC Montana yesterday they responded to 59 weather-related crashed. "Yesterday was really hectic and today it slowed down so I think people got the memo that they either need to slow it down or stay home," Pavalone says. "If you don't have to leave today, if you have the luxury of staying home from work then please do so and just stay off the roads, but it has slowed down thankfully." As for Kamura, he says while the first snow may bring extra business to local body shops, he just wants people to get where they need to go safely. "Get up a little bit earlier, leave the house a little earlier for work, keep your distance, stay back and just drive careful," says Kamura. With temperatures dropping and roads remaining slick authorities are urging people to limit travel as much as they can.