ST. IGNACE (AP) – A tractor-trailer tipped on its side Thursday night on the Mackinac Bridge when slapped by a nearly 80 mph wind gust, prompting officials to close the 5-mile-long span for several hours.
The northbound truck was carrying a light cargo load and nobody was hurt, Mackinac Bridge Authority executive secretary Bob Sweeney said Friday. The trailer section grazed one of the bridge’s suspension cables and came to rest on the outer railing, but both were undamaged except for scuffed paint, he said.
Officials provide escorts for “high-profile” vehicles – such as semis, pickup trucks with campers and cars towing small boats or bicycles – during especially windy periods in the Straits of Mackinac area, where Lakes Huron and Michigan converge. If winds are strong enough, the bridge can be closed to such vehicles.
On Thursday, “the winds moved in so quickly we didn’t have time to get an escort set up” before the truck tipped just after 9 p.m., Sweeney said.
The truck was going about 20 mph, the normal speed limit for that type of vehicle on the bridge, he said.
A tow truck righted the semi and pulled it off the bridge, which reopened shortly after midnight. The bridge authority issued a high-wind warning Friday, saying semis, motor homes and vehicles pulling trailers were particularly vulnerable and all motorists should drive no faster than 20 mph.
Sweeney said he was aware of no other case of a semi toppling onto the railing of the bridge, which opened in 1957.
In 1989, a 31-year-old woman from Royal Oak was killed when the subcompact car she was driving went out of control and flipped over the bridge railing. An SUV driven by a 25-year-old man from Macomb County went over the side in 1997 in what police concluded was a suicide.
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