Storms bring ‘more trouble than snow’

December 3, 2005

The eight-inch snow punch nature threw Thursday caused trucks and timelines to go awry.

Classes started late and ended early for Hood River County School District. Teachers, staff, and drivers scrambled to get kids onto buses and home as snow kept accumulating throughout the morning.

“More trouble than snow,” was how Jose Guzman of Guzman Towing put it, after a day of pulling cars out of ditches.

The ice on Interstate 84 caused a brief shutdown of the freeway at 9 a.m. Friday at milepost 84, near The Dalles.

“The day was kind of a disaster: a lot of people didn’t expect it to be like this, and it seemed like there was more trouble than there was snow,” Guzman said. His Thursday details included a vehicle unlock of a child inside an unheated car (a donated service).

Getting kids home kept authorities busy during the middle part of the day, once school let out on a staggered schedule starting at 11:30 a.m.

Jack Sprague of Hood River Middle School said this was the first time in his 22 years’ teaching that he recalled late start and early release on the same day.

County deputies stood at intersections, including Frankton and May, holding up traffic so school buses could safely make turns on icy roads.

Jackknifed trucks, overturned cars, and closed roads defined the day, as deputies and Oregon State Troopers shared boxes of road flares and citizens on snowmobiles helped stranded drivers out of binds.

The workday started with a jackknifed truck just south of the State Street intersection, closing Highway 35 for nearly an hour. At the end of the day, deputies pulled a passenger from an overturned car at Country Club and Barrett roads, attended by Guzman.

Truckers got into trouble when they tried roads that were steeper than their freight could handle, and drivers got stuck trying to help other drivers get out.

Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported, including the Barrett Road rollover.

Frank Hughes of J and L Towing pulled six trucks out of trouble – including one truck twice. The Canadian trucker, without chains on his semi, jackknifed on Frankton Road by Frankton School and Hughes got him out with instructions to return to Wal-Mart and wait for better conditions or to put on proper chains. Several hours later, Hughes helped the same trucker on Frankton just south of May Drive, less than a half-mile away.

“He said someone told him he could go out May, but he needed more chains to take care of the weight of his freight.”

Hughes said the Dec. 1 storm was “the first big snow we’ve had for this time of year in seven or eight years. This kind of thing usually comes later.”

One guy who made sure he had enough traction devices on his rig was veteran school bus driver Smokey Mainwaring, who started his day at 4 a.m., chaining up at the Odell bus barn.

“First time in 11 years I put chains on the front tires,” Mainwaring said. “I knew I needed them to keep from slipping side to side.

“Student safety is utmost on our minds,” Mainwaring said. “A lot of the younger kids are worried about being late to school. We tell them, `your teacher knows you’re going to be late because the bus is running behind.’ This day was kind of unnerving.”

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