Father travels through storm of tumbleweeds on SR 240 with son

The father and son could only laugh and keep driving as the winds blew dozens of tumbleweeds into the roadway
umbleweeds take over SR 240

Making his way home from Leavenworth on Tuesday, Patrick Antonson and his son were caught in the middle of what people are calling Tumblegeddon.

Antonson’s son took a video of their wild encounter with dozens of tumbleweeds crossing their path on SR 240 north of West Richland. In the video, you can see heavy winds carrying the bushels across the roadway and hit their van. You can hear the father and son laughing as they plow through and commenting “just another day in the desert.”

TUMBLEGEDDON: This is what the tumbleweeds looked like on SR 240 north of Richland, Washington, minutes before transportation officials shut down the highway for hours on New Year's Eve.

Antonson told KAPP-KVEW he was driving his work van back to the Tri-Cities after a job in Leavenworth. He says he normally takes a route through Mattawa that is calm and has nice scenery. After they made their way through the valley, they were greeted by the heavy winds on SR 240 just before arriving home. He says tumbleweeds are normal and he has seen this type of activity before while driving, but never to this magnitude.

“I’ve seen this scenario probably more times than I can count but never as extreme as it was last night,” Antonson said, “There were a couple parts where it got worse. They were piled up in doubles going over the road. It was kind of like windshield-high.”

Officials with the Washington Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol experienced similar encounters as they helped drivers through the storm of weeds. On Tuesday night, SR 240 was shut down for 10 hours because of the 20 to 30-foot piles gathering on the roadway. Trooper Chris Thorson with WSP assisted WSDOT with the removals and as they dug out a vehicle from the 15-foot tall piles of tumbleweeds on Wednesday.

Thorson said strong winds caused the tumbleweeds to clog the highway. Cars were forced to stop to avoid hitting the massive amount of tumbleweeds. Those cars were quickly buried forcing crews to help them out of the drift of weeds.

The closure of SR 240 caused a backup that was reportedly several miles long. Drivers were detoured for several hours as the crews responded. Antonson said he arrived home before the road was shutdown but did see snow plows on the roadway. Those plows were used to help clear the road.

“It was a little nerve-racking,” Antonson said, “Then we just seemed to come through and all of a sudden they were gone!”

Antonson said his van was not damaged by any of the tumbleweeds but one got stuck to the ladder attached to the top of the vehicle. He says they are harmless but you do have to be careful.

“Some of them are half the size of the van,” Antonson said, “so you get a little worried one might have a stock or stem stuck inside of it that could be think enough to puncture your radiator so you are a little nervous about it, but for the most part they crinkle up like wrapping paper when you hit them so it is kind of comical.”

 

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