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Highway 97 reopens, hours after 2 semis collide


(Update: highway fully reopens)

A semitruck jackknifed and another crashed into it on icy Highway 97 at Lava Butte south of Bend late Wednesday afternoon, but despite a second collision of two vehicles and a engthy closure, no injuries were reported, Oregon State Police reported.

One southbound lane reopened around 7:30 p.m. and a northbound lane was reopened later in the night; both lanes were open again before 11:30 p.m., ODOT reported.

Check our ODOT TripCheck page for updates, there and elsewhere.

The crash was reported shortly before 5 p.m. near the Lava Butte weigh scales just south of the High Desert Museum, where the four-lane highway is divided by a concrete barrier, OSP Sgt. Michael Berland said.

Both semis were heading north on a roughly 5-degree downgrade when the first semi lost traction and began to jackknife — “there’s nothing he can do,” Berland said.

Another semi behind the first couldn’t avoid hitting the one that jackknifed and “ended up getting pinched between the jersey barrier and the trailer of the jackknifed semi,” causing the semi’s cab to tear lose from the trailer, Berland said.

Neither semi driver was hurt, nor were the drivers of two other vehicles a quarter-mile behind that were trying to stop and collided.

“It’s crazy there are no injuries,” the sergeant added.

Berland said it’s likely to be an “extensive” closure of at least some lanes, as the roadway is “a sheet of ice” and they were trying to find tow companies with suitable equipment available at a time when winter weather has meant many crashes around the region.

The two rigs were 35,000 and 50,000 pounds, Berland noted. And while the southbound lanes were not involved in the crash, removing the semis could cause issues that would affect the other lanes, hence the complete closure.

ODOT crews were excavating snow “to give us room to work with,” Berland said. “We’ve got to get a look at what tow operators can tackle it.”

If they can’t get a lane open, a pilot car might be used to direct traffic in each direction. “There’s a chance we may have to bring cranes out” to get the trucks upright and removed,” Berland added.

Deschutes County sheriff’s Sgt. William Bailey said southbound Highway 97 was closed at the Baker Road exit, while northbound traffic was closed at the Cottonwood Road exit.

There have been numerous crashes around the region due to record late-February snowfall this week.

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