Scary Close Call on Oregon Coast Road Yields Lessons
By Andre Hagestedt
(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – Normally, we don’t write news stories about ourselves. But in this case, a firsthand account is really the only possibility since I was there for a rather frightening near-miss that involved a fallen tree and a semi that couldn’t stop in time.
About 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, a tree fell across Highway 101 near the top of Cape Foulweather, blocking the road. As bystanders were trying to move parts of the tree so they could get past, a semi truck came down the road from the opposite direction and did not see the tree, slamming through it and narrowly missing one of the other stopped vehicles.
No one was injured in the incident, although the semi sustained some damage.
I was heading south on 101 over Cape Foulweather at that time, on my way to Newport to experiment with some night photography. As I approached the top, I noticed a semi truck had stopped with its emergency lights blinking, and another sedan was stopped as well – both in front of a tree that covered the roadway.
One person from the sedan was working on one end of the tree, trying to pull loose some of the limbs so that the driver could get around the obstruction. I stopped in the lane next to the semi, and got out to help – also turning on my emergency blinkers.
The man and I managed to yank part of the tree away, and the car got through and stopped on the other side.
However, just then, we spotted another semi truck coming around the bend in the oncoming lane. The driver in the sedan and the first semi both tried flashing their lights in warning, as the man and I raised our arms.
It was clearly evident the oncoming semi didn’t see the tree. This particularly alarmed me, since my car was closest to the tree and in the lane next to oncoming traffic, with the door slightly ajar.
For a few seconds it seemed as if he saw the warnings and might slow down, but then it was soon clear he wasn’t slowing down enough. At about 20 to 30 feet from the tree, he slammed on his brakes – obviously not enough time for a rig of that size.
That split second was the most harrowing, as he could’ve easily careened out of control and slammed into my car, and maybe even those of us still standing in the road.
The truck rammed right through the tree – about a foot or two in diameter at its thickest – with a tremendous noise that was a combination of thuds, brakes and wood crunching. I thought for sure my car was a goner.
To that driver’s credit, he missed my car entirely and simply knocked the tree aside, ironically opening up a hole so we could all get through. He managed to come to a complete stop about 150 feet down the road.
The driver of the first semi said the guy probably simply thought his rig was going slowly up the hill with its emergencies on, and thus didn’t notice it was also a stopped vehicle. The second semi driver later said he couldn’t see the tree because his brights were off – which could’ve been because he mistook the flashing of our headlights as a sign to keep his brights off.
He mentioned something about his rig being “thrashed,” but I was unable to ascertain whether that meant it was drivable or not.
State police soon arrived and all of us but the second semi took off. As I came back an hour so later, there was little sign anything had happened at all.
There were no winds at this time, and it hadn’t been raining much lately, so I don’t know why the tree came down.
In any case, the lesson I learned from all this – and that you should take from this as well – is pay close attention to the roadway as far ahead as you can. Trees don’t fall onto the coastal highways everyday, but it does happen. It, as well as manmade accidents and hazards on the highway, could pop up at any moment.
Just because you’re alone on a highway at night doesn’t mean you necessarily have that road to yourself.
More About Oregon Coast lodging.....
LATEST OREGON COAST NEWS STORIES
Back to Oregon Coast Beach Connection