Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Marion County Shirt Factory Incident

US-412 east of the Arkansas state line had been an uneventful drive, even when I hit the hairpin turns up the mountain on the way to our delivery destination. Driving through the Ozarks in the morning fog, seeing tree after tree hanging over the roads, branches broken and tree trunks split was a little creepy but had me wondering. Did they get hit with a tornado? Northwest Arkansas has been known to get tornadoes, but none of the houses seem damaged. Maybe it was a wind storm? Or that big ice storm that hit areas from Ohio clear down to Texas a few weeks ago? I made a mental note to ask someone when I got to the delivery dock.

It was just after 5 am when I pulled onto State Route 202 in Yellville, Arkansas. As I made the last turn, creeping along the winding road in the morning fog, I looked for the factory "a half mile down" as my contact instructed. First building, not it. Second driveway, nope. Then I saw a building looming in the distance. When I got closer, I saw that it said Marion County Shirt Factory. Yep, there it was.

The first driveway looked too small to pull into and I had remembered that my contact said if we got there early, there was a big lot on the side of the building we could park in. He said he got in around 5:30, our appointment was for 6 am.

So I pulled into the lot, drove all the way around the back side of it, and came to a stop facing the entrance so Eddie could easily pull out. I saw a man sitting in his car and looked over at him. He looked at me, I looked at him, he looked at me, I gave him a little wave, he looked at me again, I half-waved again thinking he was the guy I was meeting and when he didn't respond I just figured he must have been an employee who got there early. Or a weirdo. Or both. So instead of sitting right in front his car, I backed up about 20 feet, pulled the parking brake and went into the sleeper to wake Ed.

It was 5:17 am when I woke Ed up. I know this because whenever I tell him it's time to get up, he mumbles "What time is it?" like a drunk being shaken from his park bench by a cop's night stick. "Twenty after five. Now get up! We're here." I'm a drill sargeant in the morning; if I'm up, everyone in the barracks better be up!

I went back into the cab to wait on Ed and saw a man crossing the lot with a piece of paper in his hand. When he got to the truck window, he said "Gee, I didn't see you come in!" He proceeded to tell me to meet him in the next lot, through the gate, at door number 23. He would meet me in a few minutes. I said okay and got ready to head over to the dock.

I yelled in the back to Ed, telling him again to get dressed because the guy was here and we were going to unload. I started to pull out of the lot, swinging wide to get out of the entrance and began to pull across the road to get into my lane, when I saw a shitload of sparks in my driver side mirror. I stopped immediately. I turned to look out my window just in time to see a pole come crashing down, coming to rest on the ground in a sputter of sparks and flashing light. It seemed as if I'd hit an overhead wire. But how?? I had just pulled into that lot.

I saw a wire laying across the trailer and a wire above the truck, so I began yelling toward the sleeper for Ed to come up front quickly, I needed him! I was worried about him in the sleeper because I couldn't see where all the wires went. He popped his head out asking what happened and then told me to get out and look. I didn't want to get out because I thought the wires could have been live.

We got out of the truck together to assess the situation. Other than the broken pole and downed wires, there was no damage. No damage to our trailer, no damage to our truck (Thank God!) and no damage to our freight. In the picture above you will see how the truck straddled both lanes of the road. It was still dark when this happened, so the Deputy Sheriff had come out and had his lights on in case any traffic passed through. The only people out at this hour seemed to be the employees coming to work at the shirt factory; the shirt factory that had no power.

In this picture (click to enlarge) you can see the one wire that was in front of the truck. Had I not stopped when I did, it would have hit the stack and most likely, damaged it. I've seen guys out here on the road with bent and creased stacks, clearly the result of their hitting something. The other wire in the back is a little harder to see because it's black - that's the one the container caught on.
Here you will see the pole that cracked in half. Ed said he heard a crack, but I don't remember hearing anything. I must have been so focused on the sparks and the noise they made as I watched it come down. As a result of this pole being damaged, it seems all the power in the entire town was out.
In this picture, you can see the electrical wire coming from the light pole that was resting up against the container on the trailer. It was pulled very tight and the electric company had to use their bucket truck to lift it up so Eddie could back out from under it:The Deputy Sheriff that came to the scene was the only one on duty that morning. He said he was on his way back to the station when he saw all the power go out. When he got there, they told him there was "an incident at the shirt factory" so he came on over.

And there we were, in the middle of the road, in the dark. And dark it was; between the thick morning fog and the inky darkness of the night, it would have been impossible to see the wires anyway; they were black and virtually invisible.

The four of us (me, Eddie, the Deputy Sheriff and the power company guy) decided that because there was a little rise at the entrance to the parking lot where it met the road, when I pulled out, the container was just high enough to hit the low lying wires. It didn't happen when I pulled in because we went down into the parking lot, therefore, lowering the height of the container on the trailer.

From what the Deputy Sheriff said, the wires at that location had been hanging low due to the ice storm. When the power company came out, they informed us that they had already been there once to try to fix the pole that had been leaning over, but that the telephone company hadn't come out yet to raise their wires to a safe level.

The head guy with the power crew didn't seem too pleased as Eddie tried to lighten the mood by making a few jokes. He told Ed, "I'm in no mood for jokes. I've been dealing with this for three weeks straight, sixteen hours a day." He later told us that the ice storm had paralyzed the county and all the trees I had seen on the way in, the ones that were down and broken, were in fact a result of the storm.

I was not issued a citation, as the Deputy Sheriff said it was clearly not my fault (yay!) and also said that he would be putting that information in the police report so I would not be held liable for an accident. The company we are leased to (love them!) said they would be putting the incident in the computer as a "non-preventable" accident which means it won't go against my record. There are only two kinds of accidents in their book - preventable and non-preventable - so I'm VERY glad that everything seemed to work in my favor.

So I apologize to the fine people of the Ozarks for being the cause of their power outage just as they were most likely getting ready for their work day and I thank my lucky stars that my first incident in three years of driving turned out much better than it could have.

I guess all that praying my mother does finally worked.


Anonymous said...

What an adventure! Luckily it all worked out fine.

Kurt said...

Ah. I'd wondered why the power went out that morning when it'd just seemed that it was finally back on for good. My alarm clock didn't go off because the power was out, but the alarm on my iPhone still woke me up. Still, it was a little irritating to not be able to shower and such because there were no lights. Accidents happen, though. Glad nobody was hurt.

Jeni said...

Anything dealing with wires -live or not -bothers me cause I'm always afraid they might still be live, ya know.
And the accident getting logged as non-preventable -good deal on that indeed. It always amazed me that virtually any and every accident any of the drivers I knew (from my truckstop waitressing years) seemed always to be considered a "chargeable" by their particular companies.

Gil said...

Glad it all worked out for you and Eddie. My neighbor, lineman for local power company, was part of about thirty crews that our local Connecticut power company sent to help restore power lost in that ice storm. He claims there is still plenty of work for the local crews to do.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderfully funny story! lol. Complete with pics (of COURSE! ~ thanks!) Thanks for the morning chuckle!

word verification: diesell (lol)

Anonymous said...

Well I've heard of a whole room coming to a stop when you enter a room...but a whole town?! You still got it girl!Glad it all turned out ok.


Anonymous said...

Wow. What a deal. Glad they didn't charge you with a preventable, since clearly you did nothing wrong. And glad you, Ed and the truck were okay.

Fandango Travelers said...

What a harrowing story! I'm so glad you got a "non-preventable" - what a relief. I'm even more glad that the beautiful new truck came through unscathed. Great pics too.

Dreamybee said...

Scary! Glad there was no real damage done besides that pole, but it sounds like it was already in bad shape.

all things bradbury said...

i've had these kind of glad you both and the truck made it ok!

Anonymous said...

Loved it, Salena! Having been a trucker at one time, I can identify and relate to all you said! What makes the story even more hilarious is the fact that it's TRUE! Please write more! I'm bookmarking " The Daily Rant" so I can get constant doses of your much needed humor and anecdotes to help me get that extra something I need to get me through my crappy day...... kind of like that drip IV of happy juice that you can adjust yourself after you've had a painful operation and you're lying in a hospital bed, wishing you were dead .... know what ah mean, VERN? By the way, did you know that the power is STILL out in the rest of the state? hehehe ~ ~tz~