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Dust storm, crashes close U.S. 395

November 21, 2011

High winds and blowing dust are responsible for three different collisions on U.S. 395 Friday that prompted the closure of the highway for a short time.
According to California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Dennis Cleland, high winds blew a dust storm over U.S. 395 between Independence and Big Pine, creating unsafe driving conditions that led to the collisions.
The first collision occurred at about 1:30 p.m. when Michael Quinn, 68, was traveling northbound in a 1990 Dodge Ram.
It appears Quinn was attempting to slow down as he entered a heavy dust storm with low visibility on U.S. 395 just south of Blackrock Springs Road. As Quinn slowed, he was rear-ended by California City resident Terry Lowell, 46, driving a 2009 Ford Ranger.
The force of the rear-end collision propelled Quinn’s vehicle approximately 300 feet into a cattle guard.
Quinn suffered a head injury and Lowell suffered a broken ankle as a result of the collisions.
Cleland said Lowell’s Ranger sustained major front-end damage and Quinn’s Dodge Ram sustained moderate front and rear-end damage.
A CHP officer who responded to the collision had parked his squad car on the right shoulder and decided to move the vehicle farther south in order to give other motorists more advanced notice they were approaching a collision scene.
Before the officer could close his driver-side door, Anthony Olson, driving a 2011 Suzuki SUV, collided with the officer’s vehicle, side-swiping it at about 35 mph.
Cleland said the Suzuki sustained moderate damage to its right front quarter-panel and the squad car received moderate damage to its left side, but both drivers were unscathed.
Approximately one minute later, the CHP officer once again attempted to back his squad car up to warn motorists of the collision when Jeffrey Lancaster, 31, of Phoenix, Ariz., rear-ended the squad car in a 2000 F350 pulling a travel trailer.
This time, according to Cleland, the officer did see the vehicle coming and was able to brace for impact.
Cleland said the truck sustained moderate front-end damage, while the squad car sustained major rear-end damage.
Again, neither driver was injured.
Caltrans and the CHP closed U.S. 395 from Big Pine to Independence for a short time at 1:36 p.m., then began escorting motorists through the dust storm near Blackrock.
The blowing dust was so bad, Cleland said, motorists could only see 25-50 feet ahead of them.
Cleland said there was an additional collision involving a 2001 Toyota, however details on that crash were not available.
A day earlier, officers had to close U.S. 395 near Tom’s Place when a 2001 freight truck traveling south on U.S. 395 near Lower Rock Creek Road overturned.
According to the CHP, the driver, Ronald Curtis, 49, of Provo, Utah, apparently made an unsafe turning maneuver.
The CHP said Curtis was traveling at about 60 miles per hour as he entered a left curve just south of Rock Creek Road. “Mr. Curtis made a sudden and unsafe turning movement, which caused the load on the trailer to shift to the right,” a press release from the CHP states. “The weight shift, combined with the turning movement, caused the tractor trailer to roll over onto its right side, and spill the cargo of ABS pips onto and off the roadway.”
The tractor trailer continued to travel on its right side for a few hundred feet, as it rotated in a clockwise direction, coming to rest blocking all four lanes of traffic on U.S. 395.
“The CHP, Caltrans, Long Valley Fire Department and Miller’s Towing were able to clear the roadway and restore the flow of traffic in a very short time,” the press release states.
Curtis suffered a small laceration to his head and was treated at the scene by the Long Valley Fire Department before being released.

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