TRUCKER HIT WHILE PUTTING ON TIRE CHAINS

December 16, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

Icy roads, excessive speed and driver inexperience may have contributed to severe injuries to a truck driver who was hit by a young driver near Meacham Sunday night, the initial investigation by the Oregon State Police indicated.

Rodney Wallem, 46, of Longview, Wash., suffered multiple broken bones and cuts when he was hit on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the OSP in Pendleton reported.

Wallem was out of his vehicle installing traction chains when the incident occurred near milepost 233, about halfway between Meacham and Deadmans Pass. The road surface was icy and there were heavy winds at the time, the OSP troopers reported.

Wallem suffered multiple broken bones and cuts and was transported to St. Anthonys Hospital in Pendleton. He was treated there, then transported to Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Care Center in Portland for further treatment.

Wallem was in serious condition this morning, with head injuries, a fractured left elbow and a fractured left leg, the hospital reported.

The OSP said Alaric Young, 19, of Kennewick, Wash., was eastbound in a 1990 Honda Accord, lost traction and was unable to stop. The car slid along the side of the truck and struck the truck driver as he was installing chains near the tractor unit. Police said the truck was parked on the shoulder of the road with its lights on.

Pending further investigation, the OSP said today no charges have been brought against the driver. Alcohol did not appear to be a factor, according to the OSP.

While it was windy in the region Sunday, there appeared to be no major damage. There were scattered electrical outages in Wallowa County but service was expected to be restored quickly this morning, Pacific Power and Light officials said.

The Wallowa County Road Department reported all roads were open. The only incident was a tree blown down on Ski Run Road near Joseph.

In Union County, a Greyhound bus went into a ditch near Ladd Creek on Interstate 84 on Sunday. A van brought passengers to La Grande. For a while Sunday, Highway 30 between North Powder and Haines was closed. Hull Lane near La Grande was closed in spots on Sunday due to snow drifts.

The Oregon Department of Transportation reported at 7 a.m. today that road conditions at Meacham presented slush, with the snowpack breaking up. It was 30 degrees.

Similar conditions were reported in the Ladd Canyon area.

The weather bureau canceled high wind warnings for the Grande Ronde Valley just after 7 p.m. Sunday but established them again about 1 a.m. today.

The warnings were canceled when wind speed dropped to 25 mph to 35 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph. In the early morning hours, potentially damaging gusts were expected up to 60 mph, with sustained winds of 35 mph to 45 mph.

Blowing dust and debris could reduce visibility and high profile vehicles were advised to use extreme caution.

The National Weather Service continued to predict windy weather with blowing and drifting snow. It will be cloudy and colder tonight, with lows of 10 to 20 degrees and wind from the southwest up to 15 mph.

Snow was expected to fall in the late afternoon Tuesday. The wind Tuesday could be up to 30 mph. Afternoon temperatures should be in the 30s.