The morning commute on Interstate 5 near Lakewood was thwarted Monday morning by an unlikely series of events involving shrimp, cheesecake, a burning semitruck, and an SUV that crashed into multiple emergency-response vehicles while fleeing law enforcement.
All northbound lanes were closed during the height of the morning commute, and the Washington State Department of Transportation advised drivers to delay their trips and avoid the area. Schools in the Clover Park School District opened two hours late.
It all started just before 1 a.m., when a semitruck from Cheesecake Factory that was full of shrimp and cheesecake caught fire near the main gate of Joint Base Lewis McChord and Berkeley Street, according to the Washington State Patrol. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
While emergency response crews were at the scene of the fire, shortly before 4 a.m., an SUV crashed into two fire trucks, a patrol car, a WSDOT vehicle and a civilian vehicle, Trooper Johnna Batiste said on Twitter. The WSDOT vehicle’s driver-side door was ripped off.
The SUV driver and passenger were taken to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, Batiste said, but no other injuries were reported.
The driver of the SUV had been fleeing Thurston County sheriff’s deputies, Batiste said. She did not say why the driver was being pursued. Deputies had ended the chase, but the SUV driver continued north on I-5 to Lakewood, where the crash occurred, Batiste said.
The roadway’s left shoulder was opened around 6 a.m. to let some backed-up traffic get through, according to WSDOT. Two lanes of the freeway reopened just after 9 a.m., but the pace of travel through the area remained at a crawl into the afternoon. Even at noon, backups stretched for 13 miles. All lanes were reopened by 1:45 p.m.
The bizarre events behind the backups had some Seattleites recalling the many weird traffic stories the city has seen over the years. Here are some relatively recent ones.