Weather keeps megaload stalled near Kooskia for at least another day

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

February 8, 2011

Snowy weather prevented a megaload from traveling for a fifth consecutive day.

The Idaho Transportation Department Monday again postponed the third leg of what was supposed to be a four-day trip across Idaho on U.S. Highway 12, said Adam Rush, a spokesman for the agency.

ITD officials originally hoped the oversized shipment would be able to cover about 50 miles from Kooskia east to near the U.S. Forest Service Lochsa Ranger Station, between 10 p.m. Monday and 5:30 a.m. today.

Mother Nature vetoed that idea.

The chance of rain and snow for Monday evening was 100 percent for Lowell, the halfway point of the route, according to the National Weather Service.

ITD had a slush designation for all 50 miles. “Look out for a mix of rain and snow. The road is wet.”

The weather service predicted an improvement in conditions starting tonight, when the chance of snow diminished to 20 percent.

The super-sized transport can’t move unless the road is completely clear between the fog lines.

The half-drum bound for a ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings, Mont., left Lewiston just after 10 p.m. Tuesday and made it to the outskirts of Orofino by 3:15 a.m. on Wednesday.

It departed Orofino on Wednesday at about 10 p.m. and reached Kooskia at about 5:20 a.m. During that segment of the trip, motorists were delayed 59 minutes between Greer and Kamiah while the load maneuvered around a sharp curve.

ITD requires the extra big cargo to pull over every 10 to 15 minutes to allow traffic to pass.

The half-drum on the road now is one of four ConocoPhillips barged to Lewiston from Japan, where they were made. The oil company is using U.S. 12 to get them across Idaho.

The first load will wait near the Montana border for the second one and the two will convoy, taking about two more weeks to reach Billings. ITD isn’t predicting when the second one will leave because of the postponements with the first.

The last two halves are supposed to be shipped at the end of March and early April. They will be installed in a Billings refinery as part of a rehabilitation of the plant.

Williams may be contacted at
[email protected] or (208) 848-2261.