Sticky Situation closes Highway 199

February 21, 2001 11:00 pm
Dwayne Reichlin, president of Hambro Forest Products, left, works on the damaged bladder as Gale Reichlin, driver of the truck, far right, looks on. (Photo by Stephen Merrill Corley/The Daily Triplicate).
Dwayne Reichlin, president of Hambro Forest Products, left, works on the damaged bladder as Gale Reichlin, driver of the truck, far right, looks on. (Photo by Stephen Merrill Corley/The Daily Triplicate).

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

The rain-slicked curve of Highway 199s mile marker 4 was the sight of another tractor-trailer wreck yesterday morning.

A double flatbed trailer carrying two 20,000-pound bladders of glue was struck by a Mercedes sedan as the two vehicles met at the curve, according to the driver of the trailer, Gale Reichlin of Snoozie Shavings.

No one suffered major injury in the accident, though the entire front end of the Mercedes, including parts of the engine, was scattered in small pieces over the highway.

Reichlin said that while he was westbound, the Mercedes coming in the opposite direction started fishtailing around the corner. The sedan struck the back tire of Reichlins first trailer, bounced off, then spun around and struck the second trailer, flipping it over and pushing it off the road, he said.

I didnt have time to get scared. You just have to grab on tight to the wheel and try to keep everything straight, he said.

Clark Creek runs under the highways slanted curve there. Because one of the containers of glue ripped open, officials from California Fish and Game, Del Norte County Health Department and Redwood National and State Park Service were called to the scene in case the glue was deemed toxic to the environment.

A large redwood tree stands on the north edge of the highway by the creek. The second trailer of the truck was flipped against the tree, which prevented the trailer from sliding down into Clark Creek.

There has been a little spillage, but its so thick it doesnt flow. Were lucky the tree was there, otherwise the trailer would have been upside down in the stream, said Don Kelly of Fish and Game.

Clark Creek is a spawning stream for steelhead and salmon. Kelly said theres a good possibility salmon are in the creek now.

The glue carried by the truck is used for forming particle board, according to Snoozie Shavings president Dwayne Reichlin, who is the brother of the trucks driver. Gale Reichlin was in the process of delivering the glue to Crescent City from the glue plant in White City, Ore.

Health Department official Leon Perreault said the glue is not a hazardous material, but said all precautions will be taken to assure no more of the glue would leak during cleanup and to assure that what did leak would be removed.

Dwayne Reichlin said he arranged for a crane and a pumping mechanism to suck the glue out of the ripped bladder and into a new container.

Highway 199 was closed off from about 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the wreck removal.

Last June, a tractor-trailer went off the road at the same spot. The truck was carrying a transformer which leaked mineral oil that spilled down the bank toward Clark Creek.

That last spill denuded the bank, but there were no long-term effects of the spill, Kelly said.

Even so, that particular section of the highway is a concern to the Redwood National and State Parks representatives Rick Sermon and Carol McCall.

Not only is this a tight curve, its got a high slope what we call a super that slants toward the creek, Sermon said.

The road is slanted to aid cars through the curve. Sermon and McCall said they dont want the road made safer at the cost of the redwood forest, but said they would like wrecks to be prevented especially if hazardous chemicals are involved.

The June truck incident was about him being too high, too wide and too long. He did not have a permit to bring a truck like that through Highway 199, Sermon added.

He said he doubts Caltrans will modify the road there to make it easier to get through.