Every once and a while we hear fascinating stories about people working together to help each other. On I-90 Wednesday afternoon one of those situations occurred, here is that story. (Photos from the scene thanks to Igor Gulchuk.)
Westbound traffic on Interstate 90 came to an abrupt halt Wednesday afternoon when a tree came down and blocked the entire roadway near the Franklin Falls bridge. Three lanes filled bumper to bumper with holiday travelers skidded to avoid each other and avoid what could have been a major traffic tie-up.
Russ and Sheila Fode and their two teenage children Eric and Emily were traveling over Snoqualmie Pass from Wenatchee to Olympia to visit family Wednesday afternoon and witnessed the tree coming down. They were hoping for a smooth trip, trying to avoid getting caught on the wrong side of the pass when crews started avalanche control work later that afternoon.
“Out our window, we noticed snow cascading off a tree up ahead,” started Sheila Fode. “Then the tree started to sway and then just fell straight down across the entire road. It happened within a matter of seconds,” she said. The road was carrying heavy traffic, but no one was hit or injured. The Fode’s were three cars back from where the tree fell.
“It’s truly a miracle that on one was injured. A few seconds earlier or later, someone could have been seriously hurt or even killed,” she added. Drivers immediately began getting out of their cars to make sure no one had been caught under the tree.
“Everyone’s first thoughts were about drivers closest to the tree. The Christmas spirit came out in everyone,” she said. Information about the fallen tree was passed down the line of traffic. Once it was determined everyone was safe, Russ Fode began recruiting people to help him move the tree off the road.
“People standing around were saying it was too big to move, but my husband Russ knew that if we got enough people to help, we could move the tree.” After a short discussion about the safest way to move the tree, nearly fifty people positioned themselves along the tree trunk and slowly moved the tree out of the road. One person carrying an axe in his trunk trimmed limbs out of the way.
“We could hear cheers from people in the back up as we moved the tree; it was a great feeling,” Fode said. Within just a few minutes, the tree was out of the road and people were back in their vehicles. Fode estimated the total amount of delay was approximately 30 minutes. “It’s amazing the things you can accomplish when everyone pitches in and works together,” she said.
WSDOT maintenance crews remove hundreds of trees each year that pose a potential danger to motorists. Still, saturated soils and heavy snowfall can combine to drop trees along the roadway. Drivers are always encouraged to remain alert and watch for potential hazards.