Massive tumbleweed storm brings highway to a halt

A Washington state trooper called it "tumblegeddon."

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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Workers cleared a flood of tumbleweeds from a Washington roadway.

Washington State Department of Transportation

Drivers in Washington state are used to contending with rainy conditions, but a different sort of road hazard appeared this week: a freakish storm of tumbleweeds.

State Route 240 in eastern Washington shut down on New Year's Eve when a massive pile of wind-blow tumbleweeds inundated the roadway, trapping cars and a semitruck in piles of plants up to 30 feet (9 meters) high. If you've never met a tumbleweed in person, you might not realize how thorny and tough they can get. These aren't fluffy plants that just disintegrate. 

Chris Thorson, public information officer for Washington State Patrol District 3, tweeted a video of workers clearing the spiky plants from around an abandoned car. Thorson dubbed the incident "tumblegeddon."

The Washington State Department of Transportation was able to clear the road after 10 hours with the help of a snow plow, but continued to caution drivers on the conditions as of Wednesday. "Please take care if you choose to travel through this area as winds continue to move the tumbleweeds around," the agency tweeted.

While it sounds like the start of a low-budget horror movie franchise, this sort of "tumblegeddon" incident may become more common. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside released a study in 2019 that found giant invasive tumbleweeds are thriving in the Western US

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