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Weather tales from the road: Trucker’s storm encounters no joke

James Card’s skills, patience tested by tornado, snowstorm

Green Ranger Delivery Service driver James Card. (Photo: Nick Austin/FreightWaves)

James Card has been through all kinds of weather in his 30-plus years as a truck driver. He told FreightWaves about two storms in particular — a tornado and a snowstorm — that he’s never forgotten.

Close call with a tornado

Card was just beginning his truck driving career when Mother Nature tested his skills, as well as his nerves.

He was hauling a full truckload of freight — 44,000 pounds — on Interstate 44 in Missouri when he ran into a severe thunderstorm.

“It was raining so hard you couldn’t see,” Card told FreightWaves. “You couldn’t stop, because if you stopped, somebody might have run into you. You had to keep going, so I was driving at about 5 miles per hour.”

Because of the strong winds and torrential rain, Card said he couldn’t see over the hood of his truck. Once he got out of the storm, about five to 10 minutes later, he took the nearest exit a short distance away where there happened to be a truck stop. When he went inside to grab a cup of coffee and steady his nerves, Card struck up a conversation with one of the restaurant servers.

“I was talking to the waitress and I said I came through this really bad storm down the road a little bit,” Card said. “She said a tornado just came through.”


The truck stop didn’t take a direct hit, but the waitress said the tornado went by just a few miles away.

Card added that his trailer was swaying and his truck was rocking during the storm. He had never experienced severe weather like that in a big rig and said his close call with the tornado was scary. But he couldn’t let the fear take over.

“I didn’t have time to be really scared. I was just trying to stay on the road,” Card said.

Snowbound

Card lives in the Atlanta area and has been driving for Tucker, Georgia-based Green Ranger Delivery Service for the past six years.

He recalled another memorable storm, this one from more recent years. He got stuck in a snowstorm in Kansas City, Missouri, when taking a full truckload of school supplies to Minnesota.

“I heard on the radio, the DOT said that if you’re in a parking space, stay. The road was about to be shut down all the way up to Iowa, to Des Moines,” Card recalled.

Sure enough, the road was shut down for three days, according to Card. He said thick ice had formed on top of the snow, making travel extra dangerous. But after nearly 30 years of road experience by that time, Card was prepared for situations like this.

“I had a sleeper, generator, Crock-Pot, food. So I was OK,” he said.


Related: 5 dead in Pennsylvania pileup during snowstorm


By the time drivers got the green light to leave, there was a long line of trucks trying to get out and conditions were still very slick. Card said they were all running at about 30 mph, trying not to use their brakes and keeping a safe distance between them — well, almost all of them.

“There was one truck — there’s always one — he was passing everybody. One of the other guys yelled at him that he might want to slow down. This is ice. The errant driver said, ‘You drive your truck, I’ll drive my truck.’ So about two miles up the road, he was in the median facing the other direction. Everybody blew their horns at him and kept going,” Card said with a chuckle.

That driver wasn’t hurt, but there was some damage to his rig. The driver didn’t want to look up, likely embarrassed by his mistake, Card said.

Card finally made it to Minnesota 24 hours after leaving Missouri — he should have been there two days earlier. 

“It was something,” Card said.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.