A nearly unbelievable series of incidents involving shrimp, cheesecake, a burning semitruck and an SUV fleeing law enforcement led to massive backups Monday near Lakewood. All northbound lanes of Interstate 5 were closed at the height of the morning commute.
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:
Animal innards, bones and carcasses covered a portion of Interstate 5 between Northgate and the University District after a load started falling off a southbound truck somewhere around Northeast 130th Street.
“No one was injured, but a backhoe needed to be summoned to clean up the mess, which was scooped into plastic bags,” The Seattle Times reported. “Department of Transportation workers sanded the road to improve traction.”
A semitruck carrying a load of frozen fish overturned and blocked all southbound lanes of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The crash caused rush-hour gridlock and even prompted a delay in the kickoff of a Sounders game.
The sheer weight of the fish load made cleanup challenging, police spokesman Drew Fowler said at the time.
The trouble caused by a shutdown of Highway 99 was so significant that the city of Seattle decided the following month to craft a new traffic response plan.
“A city review of the epic tractor-trailer wreck that shut down the roadway for more than nine hours last month and snarled traffic across downtown revealed ‘systemic weaknesses’ in city protocol for dealing with significant traffic incidents,” The Times reported after an interview with Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and city Transportation Director Scott Kubly. “As a result of the review, the city — by the end of June — will change its response priorities for handling major traffic incidents and hire a consultant to write new response strategies. Both Kubly and O’Toole agreed that responses to major incidents should include engineering experts who can assess strategy to remove stalled vehicles.”
A key finding, Kubly said, was that the city doesn’t have protocols for dealing with significant, unplanned road closures caused by major accidents.
Just a week after Seattle announced its plans for a new traffic response plan, commuters to the north encountered their own traffic nightmare. A Peterbilt tractor-trailer carrying a load of 14 million honeybees worth $92,000 tipped over on I-5 at the Interstate 405 interchange near Lynnwood.
“Beekeepers were on site within an hour of the 3:30 a.m. wreck to round up the honeybees, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT),” The Times reported. “As temperatures warmed and the bees became more agitated, firefighters sprayed a mixture of foam and water on the hives to slow down or kill some of the bees.”
A year later, Seattle saw the sequel to the frozen fish fiasco: A semitruck filled with frozen crab tipped and caused traffic delays on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Transportation crews spent more than six hours cleaning the area, which included getting the semitruck back on its wheels, connecting it to a tow truck and cleaning up the packages.
“Roadway should open again after de-crabbing,” WSDOT promised on Twitter at the time.
During unexpected backups, we might do well to remember when a semitruck carrying propane rolled over on I-5, leading to an eight-hour closure of the freeway in both directions between Interstate 90 and the West Seattle Bridge. Snowfall further complicated matters.
One vehicle that got stuck was the taco truck El Tajin, which was on its way to serve lunch in South Lake Union. Truck owner Thomas Lopez and his three employees made the best of it by opening for business anyway.