Saturday, January 24, 2015

Multiple rollovers on Highway 22

Truck being uprighted on Hwy 22
C. Davis photo
Updated 12:45 pm, January 24, 2014

Chris Davis

Pincher Creek Emergency Services (PCES) responded to multiple vehicle rollovers on Highway 22, beginning at approximately 7:00 pm yesterday evening, January 23. Pincher Creek and Lundbreck Fire responded with personnel and equipment, and RCMP was also on scene.  Volker Stevin helped by diverting traffic.  Highway 22 was blocked approximately 15 km north of Highway 3 for a time, with traffic being diverted onto back roads east of the highway. According to Environment Canada, near Lundbreck gusts as high as 157 km/h were reported at 7:20 pm MST.   According to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale that ranks as Hurricane 2 force winds.  It was accompanied by a very light rain, blowing debris, and blowing gravel on the back roads.

C. Davis video

According to PCES Chief Dave Cox, there were two separate incidents, both involving pickup trucks towing cargo trailers.  Both of them ended up on their sides.  One was blocking the highway and the other was partially blocking traffic.  Traffic was stopped until tow trucks could remove them from the roadway.  The call came in as a multiple blow-over. Another trailer was blown over but the vehicle pulling it remained upright.  That trailer popped off the hitch, crews helped push it into the ditch.  From there the wind rolled it over and through a barb wire fence.

Second overturned truck and trailer
Amy Evano photo
PCES responded with Lundbreck Engine, Pincher Creek Rescue, and two ambulances.  No injuries were reported to the two occupants of one of the vehicles.  The two occupants of the other vehicle were assessed on scene and released.

Amy Evano photo

"We have actually had less blow-overs this year than previous years," said Chief Cox.  "It seems like we haven't been out as much."  He said the north end of the scene "looked like downtown", referring to the number of vehicles that were angle-parked broadside to the wind. A bus that was stopped waiting for the road to reopen was rocking in the wind. "Spooky", Cox said of that sight. He added that there were also extreme crosswinds near the Castle River south of Highway 3.

Amy Evano photo

Chief Cox speculated that Pincher Creek Emergency Services likely responds to more vehicle blowovers than any other department in Alberta.  This particular incident is similar to many scenes he's dealt with over the years along the same stretch of highway.  "It's quite commonplace, really."

It was close to impossible to walk or move at the scene. Driving in the area was difficult. As evidenced by the video attached to this article, which was taken in the windbreak of large emergency vehicles, even documenting the event was difficult. Tractor trailers are advised to use caution or if at all possible avoid the area until the winds die down. According to the most recent Environment Canada report, issued at 7:56 pm yesterday evening, the winds should diminish by early this morning. As of approximately 8:30 pm winds were extremely high in the area but traffic was being allowed through at the southern end of the scenes. As of 12:33 today, January 24, the highway is open and the winds have subsided.  An Environment Canada wind warning is still in effect for our corner of southwestern Alberta, including Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek, Waterton, Cardston, Fort Macleod, and Magrath.  "Strong westerly winds of 70 km/h with gusts to 100 are forecast to redevelop overnight tonight and continue into Sunday," according to the warning, which means there's is a significant possibility that crews will be responding to similar issues again tonight.

Earlier in the day, just before 2:00 pm, PCES assisted with a STARS landing near Maycroft for a medical transfer, unrelated to the above.  Highway 22 was relatively calm at that time.

Michael Whittington photo
C. Davis photo

Related link:  PCES on Twitter

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