Winter storms complicate truckers’ lives across nation

| 2/1/2008

A powerful winter storm that moved through parts of the Midwest on Thursday, Jan. 31, pushed into the northeast Friday with a mixture of rain, freezing rain and snow.

Out west, Interstate 90 was still closed at Snoqualmie Pass in Washington because of extreme avalanche danger. The National Weather Service said that as of Friday, 130 inches of snow have fallen at Snoqualmie Pass, 165 percent of the normal 79 inches. The record was 154 inches set in 1964.

The Seattle Times talked to Jack Ziebarth, vice president of operations for Pacific-based Gordon Trucking Inc., who said that this time of year is typically one of the slowest for shipping. Productivity is at a standstill, Ziebarth told the Times.

“Out here on the West Coast we’ve had virtually every pass closed from the Canadian border down to California” at one time or another, he said.

When weather like this sets in, a trucker going from Seattle to Utah could have to chain and unchain four or five times if he isn’t stopped entirely, Ziebarth said. It’s a health and safety issue that’s “taking a physical toll on the drivers,” he said.

Trucker Frank Allen, 48, was forced to park his rig Wednesday night, Jan. 30, on his way to unload cargo in Superior, WI. “If the wheels aren’t turning, we’re not making money,” he told The Seattle Times reporter.

And on Highway 20 in Oregon, a trucker was trapped for about 90 minutes between two avalanches on Thursday morning.

Sections of I-5 in California and I-64 in Missouri were also closed for a while on Thursday due to heavy snow. In the Texas panhandle, 40 vehicles were involved in a pile-up on I-40 due to blowing snow and icy road conditions. At least one person was killed.