Battling High Winds on [b]the Bay-Bridge Tunnel
By Jim "Buck" Sorrenti
Frigid temperatures, heavy snows and icy roads have made traveling hazardous and left many motorists in dire straits. This winter has been a harsh one, to say the least, and towers across the country have been kept busy responding to all sorts of situations in these rough conditions, from multi-vehicle pileups on major highways to cars stuck in the snow.
One situation arose recently, not from the snow and ice, but from high winds. Tidewater Express, based in Hampton and Chesapeake, Va., was called to recover a flipped over tractor-trailer from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
On Feb. 2, 2015, there were 60-plus-mph wind gusts, which had caused the tractor-trailer to flip over on the CBBT that afternoon.
The crash happened just after 1 p.m., only seven minutes after the bridge began operating under Level 4 restrictions, prohibiting tractor-trailers from crossing. The crash caused the southbound lanes to be shut down for several hours. It happened that the truck, which had already began crossing the bridge before the restriction was imposed, was about 3/4 of a mile south of the north channel bridge, near the eastern shore side. The driver suffered only minor injuries.
"This is privately owned bridge," said Tidewater VP John Pelfry. "We were called in by CBBT themselves. We've done work for them before and they like our work. They know we are equipped to handle anything."
Tidewater dispatched operator Billy Kaplan from their Chesapeake location in their new Century 1150 50-ton rotator and Jamie Rice in their 1994 Kenworth T-800 with a 2000 9055 50-ton straight stick.
Rice and Kaplan said that when they arrived on scene law enforcement said the unit was loaded with 30,000 lbs., but there was no bill of lading as proof. They decided to call in a dry van to unload the trailer.
"The 9055 was placed at the front, rigged to spike and pull the rear door frame forward due to being broken, plus to protect the 1150," said Kaplan. "Working off the back was the 1150 with the boom over the cab picking and catching the trailer from behind the tandems."
"While waiting," said Rice, "I went inside the trailer through a hole and inspected the load discovering 25-35 foam rolls weighing roughly 90 pounds each. Giving an estimated weight of 3,000 pounds, we made an attempt to lift the trailer to get straps under and noticed no bowing of the wall and no strain in the wrecker lifting confirming a light load—we made the decision to upright.
"CBBT stopped traffic," Rice continued, "and the 1150 picked, swung, and lowered the rear of the trailer over the nose while the 9055 pigeon-towed the front axle and also assisted in uprighting the trailer. Once uprighted, it was towed to (the) first island where the trailer was prepped and damage was manipulated to be able travel through the two 13-foot-6-inch tunnels; and the load was transferred, due to incoming rain, to a dry trailer."
When Pelfry arrived, Kaplan and Rice had already rigged and rolled the overturned semi back onto its wheels. The 9055 was backed up to the nose of the tractor and the 1150 was nosed to the back of the trailer. A recovery strap was wrapped around the trailer and attached to the lines of the 1150.
"I brought up the back stretch with one of our pickup trucks loaded with extra hands," said Pelfry. "Operator Joe Ricard drove the recovery trailer. We had eight guys on this job."
Once it was unloaded and secure they towed it into their Hampton location for storage.
For Tidewater Express president Mike Pelfrey and son John and their staff, it's all about preparation.
Mike said, "We have prepared and planned for this all winter. We've taken the time to get things in order, and prepare our vehicles for the storm."
Editor's Note: Look for the My Baby on Tidewater's Century 1150 rotator in the April issue of American Towman.Show Yours @ TIWDo you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim "Buck" Sorrenti at email@example.com; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!