Last week’s rock and roll wasn’t music to the ears as saturated ground combined with a Thursday snowstorm caused rock and mud slide disruptions for travelers, disrupted power and made for a close-call accident for a state plow truck operator.
“This is the time of year when drivers need to be prepared,” said Megan Sausser, Idaho Transportation Department spokesperson, “when they go around curves to look for objects in the road, watch along hillsides to see if there is any movement.”
And movement there was as multiple rock slides were reported along area highways including U.S. 12 and 95, state 13 and 14, and one on the Main Salmon Road (before Lake Creek Bridge) east of Riggins. Following last Thursday’s snowstorm followed by rain, rock and mud slides the following day partially blocked SH14 three miles west of Golden and one mile east of Newsome Creek; and trees across U.S. 12 three miles east of Syringa blocked travel most of Friday. Due to spun-out semi-truck and trailers blocking the road, along with weather conditions, US95 was shut down at the top of the White Bird Grade for approximately two hours Thursday evening.
ITD reported multiple callouts for downed trees, rock fall and plugged culverts. During one response, an unidentified ITD plow truck driver escaped injury when a tree fell across the vehicle cab while it was parked in a pullout on SH162 at milepost 21, near Lawyer’s Creek. The driver was out of the vehicle, talking with a law enforcement officer at the time of the incident and escaped injury, according to Sausser.
“We’re glad no one was hurt,” she said. “We’ll be a plow down in this area,” she continued, however, ITD will pull resources from other areas to address road issues where needed. The incident is also a reminder for motorists to watch their travel around state plows.
“If a driver damages a plow, that affects getting back out on the roads and making them safe for everyone,” Sausser said.
Last Thursday evening, 10:35 p.m., Carol Reuben, 49, of Kooskia, was injured when her car struck a tree fallen across US12 at milepost 49.5 (near the Lewis-Clearwater county line). She was wearing a seat belt, and was transported to Clearwater Valley Hospital in Orofino for treatment of minor injuries.
Weather-related issues caused multiple outages for Idaho County Light and Power Cooperative members. According to general manager Max Beach, snow-loaded trees in lines affected 55 members at Keuterville for six hours, and 45 members at Kidder Ridge for more than five hours from Thursday evening into Friday morning. Members on Joseph Plains were out for more than an hour due to a broken crossarm. Service restoration to 63 members at Selway – impacted from 2 to 6:30 a.m. when snow-loaded trees fell into lines – was delayed due to related incidents, according to Beach.
“We tried to make it up to the area around 4 a.m.,” he said, “but a semi hit a tree outside of Syringa and the road was blocked, so we went to other outages. We were told that 15 trees had to be removed from the road.”
Another incident of spun-out semis reported three miles north of Cottonwood on US95 took a turn, resulting in the arrest of a Harpster man for felony eluding.
According to court records, Idaho County Sheriff’s Deputy Phillip Graham was responding to the scene at milepost 258 when he witnessed a Chevrolet Colorado pickup traveling southbound at 70 mph, turn sideways on the slush-covered roadway, and strike a vehicle parked on the side of the road. The Colorado left the scene at a high rate of speed, during which it was observed sliding on the roadway, entering the opposite lane multiple times. Responding from Grangeville, GPD Sergeant Michael Quintal stopped the Colorado with his vehicle, and the driver, Tyler B. Morrow, 23, was taken into custody.
Morrow is also charged with reckless driving, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and leaving the scene of a damage accident, all misdemeanors. Morrow is out on $100,000 bail, awaiting a Feb. 21 preliminary hearing.