TLC Towing driver Travis Nugent spent Thursday morning hauling a ladies’ Ford F-250 pickup truck from an embankment, where it was stuck in trees inches above the icy Kalama River.
First responders were called around 6:30 a.m. to Kalama River Road near the intersection with Fallert Road, where the pickup slipped on the ice, crossed the embankment and fell about 35 feet, according to the Clark County Fire District 6, which helped with the scene.
After a tricky rescue that lasted for hours, Nugent said the Clark County Tech Rescue Team sent one of their drivers over the rope system the crews put in place to hook up the truck.
Although he arrived after the woman had already left, Nugent said he had heard she was fine, aside from being cold and wet.
The rescue ended a busy week for emergency crews after Clark County had been subject to a winter weather advisory since Saturday.
From Sunday to Wednesday morning, Washington State Patrol Soldiers responded to 203 accidents, including 47 in Clark County. Among the local accidents, three of them involved people who needed medical attention, according to Trooper spokesperson Will Finn.
Local police departments were called for 127 accidents in the county during that time, according to emergency dispatch logs, accounting for just over 3% of calls. During the same period last year, the local dispatch center received 70 traffic accident calls and 75 traffic accident calls in 2019.
Later Thursday afternoon, Nugent was on his way again for an appeal on Lewis River Road north of Yacolt. He said he and another tow truck driver were rushing to get a road condition report after slipping on that same road, answering another call on Wednesday night.
The towing company had all hands on deck this week, he said, in anticipation of the snowy and frigid weather; drivers slipping off the road accounted for over 95 percent of calls.
As of Monday, the Ridgefield-based company has answered between 100 and 120 calls, and Nugent said its typical call load was around three-quarters of that. He said most of the calls came from people stranded on rural roads in the northern county.
Nugent was hoping to squeeze in an hour or two of sleep on Thursday once he completed the tow near Yacolt; he had already worked a 14 hour shift before this call. The weather adds about an hour to calls, he said, especially if drivers have to stop to put chains on platform tires and again to remove them.