OTE - Oregon Travel Experience

The snow and the fury: Stepping up and cleaning up

Posted on: January 24th, 2012 by Madeline MacGregor in News & Press, Roadways and Waysides | No Comments

When Oregon extreme weather hits, it packs a wallop. Last week, Oregon Travel Experience rest area supervisors handled everything from floods and rest stop closures to record snowfall and treacherous ice. Through all of it, supervisor teams remained steadfast. The following story-lines were submitted by OTE’s Boardman rest area crew.

Fire and ice

Image of trucker thawing his frozen brakes with a weed flaming device.At the Boardman rest area, Assistant Supervisor Jon Tucker found a trucker in trouble. “I thought he might be stuck, so I introduced myself and asked if I could help,” Tucker said. “He told me that he had just made a quick stop to eat some breakfast and when he tried to get back on the highway the brakes froze and locked up on him.”

The California trucker, Joey Lopez, called a repairman, but it was going to be at least three hours before help arrived. Tucker suddenly thought of a possible solution. “I told Joey I had a weed torch. I thought maybe he could use it to heat up the brakes and see if they would release. It ended up working great!”

“Joey told me that I had just saved him and his company, Contractor’s Wardrobe, a thousand bucks. It was just the fix he needed. Joey was able to chain up and make the rest of his drive to Walla Walla, Washington for his delivery.”

Black snow

What happens when a truck begins to leak potentially hazardous fuel at a rest area? OTE attending supervisors immediately tag-team the situation and ensure that travelers or the environment are not harmed.

Trucker Brian Abbott had stopped for a safety break, but as soon as he stepped out of his cab he smelled diesel fumes. He looked under the rig and realized his fuel line was leaking. He noticed Assistant Supervisor Jon Tucker clearing snow nearby and asked him if there might be anything to contain the diesel with.

Tucker grabbed some five gallon buckets and put in a call to Supervisor Joleen Odens. Joleen told Tucker to use some of the pig blankets that were in OTE’s onsite storage unit. Odens then notified Director of Rest Area Operations David Patton about the spill.

When Joleen arrived on the scene, the spill had been contained by pig blankets and the driver had plugged the fuel line with a stick. Roadway Trucking was notified by Abbot, and had contacted an environmental crew from the Tri-Cities, Washington area. Tucker placed cones around the truck to prevent pedestrians or traffic from accessing the contaminated zone.

Before the hazardous-materials crew arrived, a local mechanic began repairs to the impaired fuel line. Abbot cooperated fully with the rest area team and waited for the cleanup crew to arrive. When the crew assessed the amount of diesel on the ground, snow had once again started to fall. The crew applied dry absorbent and used more of OTE’s blankets to soak up the diesel. Collecting diesel soaked snow with their huge vacuum truck, the crew said Tucker’s actions had made the cleanup much easier.

Running on empty

Boardman rest area became a much needed port in the storm for stranded motorists in last week’s blizzard. I- 84 traffic had slowed to a crawl around 3:30 in the afternoon, right about the time that Jon Tucker normally would head home from his shift.

“All of a sudden, the rest area began to fill up with trucks, and they just kept coming in a steady stream and parking where they could, even in our car-park area, so I had to take the reins and direct them.”

Tucker helped everyone find space to park, and made sure there was emergency access. When he slowed down long enough to find out how many vehicles had piled in, he counted 58 trucks and 10 cars. “They had closed the freeway two miles down the road,”  Tucker said.

“No one was going anywhere, including me. For the next five hours, trucks kept coming and I was running out of room. I had them stacked in like sardines! Finally Oregon State Police reopened the highway at 10:30 p.m., but when I drove home I knew I was going to face the same thing all over again in the morning. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.”

Around eight in the morning, Tucker pulled in and found five trucks in the rest area with frozen brakes. “I was really stuck then, because one of the drivers had his trailer brakes locked up tight, cutting me off. I finally got some coffee at 10:00 a.m. when the highway restrictions were lifted.”

As  inclement weather isolated and cut-off thousands of people from their homes and places of work, OTE rest area crews across the state worked tirelessly to clear flood debris and help truckers and motorists keep to their schedules. We give them an enormous salute.

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