BEND, Ore. - A semi-truck spun 180 degrees and struck an oncoming SUV on icy Highway 97 south of Bend Friday morning and another car swerved off the road to avoid it, but fortunately no one was injured, Oregon State Police said. The region's roads stayed slick after snow and scattered freezing rain as temperatures slowly climbed toward or above freezing for the first time in days.
The crash was reported around 7:50 a.m. on a two-lane stretch of the highway near milepost 155, just north of Vandevert Road, about 13 miles north of La Pine, troopers, ODOT and Deschutes County 911 officials said.
A semi hauling a 53-foot trailer loaded with potatoes and potato chips was heading south when the driver lost control and it slid 180 degrees, troopers said. As it rotated, it struck a small SUV heading north. The trailer continued to spin until it slid off the east side of the road.
Troopers said it would have overturned, but instead came to rest leaning against a large pine tree. A third vehicle, also heading north, slid off the road in an attempt to avoid being struck.
Troopers said the road was down to one lane for about 40 minutes and reopened about 8:30 a.m.
OSP Captain Bill Fugate said the crash occurred at a time the road was icy, though conditions were improving.
The two cars were removed fairly quickly, but officials on scene had no timeframe for removing the semi, since it was not blocking -- and tow trucks are busy dealing with slide-offs and other traffic issues.
As temperatures rose to and above freezing, the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office urged motorists "to use extra caution" Friday, as the ice on roads melted and they become "even more slippery. Please slow down and increase following distances."
Steve Bower said he encountered freezing rain early Friday driving on a four-mile stretch of Highway 97 in Jefferson County, from Juniper Butte to Bear Road.
"I had to stop and scrape ice off my windshield," he wrote. "It happened very fast," as the temperature was at 17 degrees.
"Then it just stopped and was back to normal," he added.