Freeze sends many trucks, cars sliding

By SUE RYAN

News staff writers

December 23, 2006

A semi-truck double trailer full of fuel jackknifed early this morning on the Hood River bridge in one of the latest accidents due to icy roads in the last 24 hours.

Assistant Fire Chief Devon Wells said Hood River Fire and Safety responded at 5 a.m. Friday and were on scene for three hours.

“The driver was not injured and we were there mainly to contain any fuel from going into the Hood River, which we were successful in doing,” Wells said.

Wells said the driver said he was changing lanes while going over the Hood River Bridge when his second trailer lost traction and started sliding.

Because of the incident, the Oregon Department of Transportation closed the on-ramp at Exit 63 eastbound until mid-morning and rerouted traffic to the Exit 64 on-ramp.

The snow and ice storm created slick conditions that had ODOT crews, police, and tow trucks scrambling to respond to crashes. Oregon State Police dispatchers at The Dalles Area Command reported that troopers responded to 50 to 75 vehicles off the road or blocking the road. Those were major incidents and not minor ones such as cars sliding into a guardrail.

Bob Shaner, of River’s Edge Towing in Hood River, said all eight of the company’s tow trucks were out in full force running all day long both east and west. He said they responded primarily to 28 accidents on Interstate 84 and that the early morning hours Thursday were the worst.

“I went to Portland yesterday and we were blocked up with trucks from Hood River to Viento (state park),” Shaner said.

ODOT spokesman Shawn Uhlman said crews from Cascade Locks were plowing and sanding repeatedly but that part of the ice and snow simply stuck due to the topography.

“I talked with the Cascade Locks supervisor several times yesterday. The problem is there is a 10- or 15-mile stretch of freeway that doesn’t get any sunlight,” he said. “If temperatures stay between 28 to 32 degrees then it makes it harder for that to clear.”

Uhlman said the sheer volume of holiday traffic actually helps break down the packed snow and ice.

“But what it also does to traffic is slow it down considerably,” he said. “We had lots of calls yesterday from Portland media on whether or not there was a big wreck and the answer was ‘No, it’s just slow.’”

The stretch of freeway between Hood River and The Dalles had its own share of problems with several vehicles spinning out. Three cars went off the road one mile of Mosier at 3 p.m. in quick succession. OSP responded and got the cars off the road as fast as possible while setting up flares and routing traffic into the fast lane.

Sam Wilkins, the ODOT district manager in The Dalles, said that area was one of the worst trouble spots for drivers and part of what kept his crews hopping.

“We put out a lot of sand and a lot of mag (ice melt) trying to stay ahead of it,” he said. “But that part near Mosier and the whole stretch from Memaloose to Rowena is in the shade so it stays slick.”

Oregon’s weather can change quickly and without warning. For road conditions in Oregon, call 511 or (800) 977-6\368.

Visit www.TripCheck.com for information on road and weather conditions, incidents and traffic delays.

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