Giant Tumbleweeds Block Road & Drivers Swallowed by a Massive Bush

Doug Williams
 
Clearing the flood of tumbleweeds from a Washington roadway.

Washington State Department of Transportation
Clearing the flood of tumbleweeds from a Washington roadway. Washington State Department of Transportation

Giant Tumbleweeds: New Year’s Eve is pretty much a universal moment of celebration, fun, and a countdown to midnight that ushers in a new year or, in this year’s case, a new decade.

 

Folks dress up in their finery, wear their fanciest clothes and jewelry, and often head out for a night on the town that ends in the wee hours after consuming a whole lot of champagne and making resolutions that may, or likely won’t, stick.

Just about everyone with any common sense takes a taxi or appoints a designated, sober driver, so that if the police should pull them over, the night won’t culminate in drunk driving charges and a night in the slammer.

This year, for some folks in Washington state, the best laid plans went awry thanks to Mother Nature, who decided to toss some massive tumbleweeds right onto a road southeast of Tacoma.

The state was unusually windy and dry in 2019; in fact even Seattle, which has fireworks at its famous Space Needle every year, cancelled the display for the first time in 30 years because of dangerously high winds.

Hence, the formation of giant tumbleweeds is a common result of dry, windy conditions in rural areas.

Highway 240 is in Benton County, and around 6:30 in the evening, before festivities even started, state troopers started receiving calls from frantic drivers.

They were engulfed by these thorny bushes in their cars, brought to a standstill by prickly tumbleweeds that had morphed into car-guzzling hazards. Even a semi truck was half swallowed by the errant bushes.

Five cars in total were left stuck for about 10 hours, until the Department of Transportation could dig them out and clear away the thorny debris.

It was a hilarious sight to onlookers, but to the people trapped inside those cars it was anything but a fun way to spend a night usually dedicated to parties and celebrations.

“I’ve worked in this area for 20 years and never seen tumbleweeds encase a car before,” marvelled Chris Thorson, a state trooper, in an interview with NBC-TV News. “Some of them (the drivers and passengers) had to ring in their New Year fully encased in tumbleweeds.” He felt certain that, to those folks, the situation was not funny. They “were not as amused as the people watching,” he added.

The tumbleweeds were as high as 30 feet in some spots, and the wind, as high as 40 mph at times, kept whipping them around and thoroughly attaching them to vehicles.

It is amazing, really, that no one was injured or killed in the pile up, because drivers brought to a standstill were almost invisible to the cars behind them. State troopers didn’t reopen the highway until about 4:30 in the morning, and to their dismay they found one empty vehicle.

“We still have one abandoned car that was found at daylight, luckily no one was in it,”  Thorson noted on his social media feed the following morning.

In an attempt to keep a sense of humour about what could have been a dangerous situation, the state troopers nicknamed the incident “Tumbleggedon 2020.” It took two snowplows hours to clear the mess, which stretched along the highway in a distance roughly the same as the length of three football fields.

Although the drivers and passengers trapped by the tumbleweeds had to spend New Year’s Eve in their cars, the situation could have been worse, much, much worse.

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No one was hurt, and so hopefully those folks viewed the incident with humour and grace. After all, it is certainly a one-of-a-kind experience that they can now relate to friends and family, and all can have a good laugh, and say a silent ‘thank you’ that they got out of the situation unscathed.

 
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