More accurate wind warnings needed: driver

Frank Gale
Published on February 26, 2013

PORT AUX BASQUES  The driver of a transport truck, which overturned on its side from high wind gusts while trying to cross the Wreckhouse area last week, says a Western Star story quoting an RCMP officer grossly misrepresented the situation.

“Some of what Const. Shawn Skinner had to say was total hogwash,” said Toivo Sepp, who was driving the truck when it went over.

He believes warnings about Wreckhouse winds are not accurate.

In a statement to the RCMP, Sepp said he had his transport unloaded at Come By Chance on Wednesday afternoon, and drove west on the Trans-Canada Highway to catch the ferry back to Nova Scotia.

Upon reaching Gander, Sepp’s co-driver Steven Brick called Marine Atlantic to get the departure time for the ferry, current and forecast weather, and whether any congestion was expected.

Sepp said the contact person with Marine Atlantic said the weather was good and there were no boat cancellations so, with an 11:45 p.m. departure time, they could expect to go that night.

He said when they passed a lighted sign at Mollychignic Brook on the Trans-Canada Highway near South Branch that said “high wind advisory, gusts expected 80 km/h” he didn’t even flinch as he has seen such advisories all over Canada and the United States.

Sepp said he has experienced such winds in Wyoming on numerous occasions and never had a problems with gusts of 80 km/h.

He said he reduced speed as he proceeded along. About 22 miles past the sign the wind got worse, so he slowed down to between 40 and 50 km/h.

“A large wind gust came up and very rapidly blew the truck and trailer over and it slid a little before coming to a stop on its right side,” he said.

Shortly after the truck stopped, he released his seat belt to ensure his co-driver was not seriously hurt and fell to the bottom of the cab on his shoulder.

Sepp, bleeding from the right side of his head, right arm and right leg, searched for a cellphone, then called to report the accident at 10:43 p.m.

The Port aux Basques Fire Department and RCMP came to get him and his co-driver out of the vehicle, and Sepp said the wind was bad enough that responders had to form a human chain to get he and Brick from the truck to the police vehicle.

“Walking alone was impossible in those winds,” he said.

While local reports said the winds hit 122 km/h, Sepp said that was grossly understated. He’s sure gusts must have been peaking at 170 to 180 km/h. He said winds of 122 km/h wouldn’t topple a transport truck.

Even the RCMP SUV that brought them to the hospital was running shoulder to shoulder and was barely under control, added Sepp, and the weather was much worse than stated in the forecast.

“There was no warning the winds would be up as high as they were and that’s why these types of accidents are happening,” Sepp said. “People have to be told what they’re dealing with before they get there (Wreckhouse).”

He said in other jurisdictions the road is barricaded and closed to traffic in such conditions, and that’s probably what needs to happen at the Wreckhouse.

“We’re a team driving unit and we only stop if the highway is closed. With a warning of 80 km/h winds we’ll go through every time.”

Sepp said the Wreckhouse is a crazy place and, other than blocking the road and stopping traffic from going through, a 16-foot high solid fence or a row of poplar trees would help along the dangerous two-kilometre stretch of road.