A tractor trailer Accident Tuesday afternoon was the beginning
of a series of collisions on U.S. 101 at Morgan Hill and in the
city itself creating headaches for police and commuters alike.
Morgan Hill – A tractor trailer Accident Tuesday afternoon was the beginning of a series of collisions on U.S. 101 at Morgan Hill and in the city itself creating headaches for police and commuters alike.

According to the California Highway Patrol report, the first accident occurred at approximately 2:42pm on northbound U.S. 101, just south of the Bailey Avenue interchange. The 21-year-old driver of a GEO Prism drifted to the left during a curve in the road, and over-corrected, hitting a Chevy Suburban in the lane to her right, pushing the Suburban into the tractor trailer.

The Prism was traveling approximately 70mph, according to the report, and spun off into the center divider. The Suburban and the tractor trailer spun out of control and rolled over, becoming entangled with each other.

The Suburban came to rest on its roof, while the tractor trailer ended up on its side, spewing its load of gravel across the northbound lanes.

The drivers of the Suburban, a 36-year-old female from San Jose, and the tractor trailer, a 44-year-old Gilroy male, were removed from the vehicles and transported to local hospitals. The female suffered moderate injuries while the male suffered minor injuries, the CHP report said.

The northbound lanes were closed to traffic until 5:40pm.

Caltrans and San Jose Police diverted traffic at the Cochrane Road interchange through Morgan Hill, while Morgan Hill police officers assisted with closing off northbound highway ramps and routing traffic through the city.

As the commute traffic increased, roads in Morgan Hill filled. Traffic slowed to a crawl on Santa Teresa Boulevard, Cochrane Road and Monterey Road.

Morgan Hill police Cmdr. David Swing said grave-shift officers, scheduled to come on duty a little early for a briefing, were notified to come in even earlier due to the chaotic commute.

“Fortunately, we were able to have both of our day and our grave shifts out there at one point,” Swing said.

One officer described Morgan Hill’s north-south corridors as “parking lots” at the height of the mess between 4:30-5:30pm.

“We had a slew of fender-benders on our roadways as a result of the traffic,” Swing said.

Impatient drivers trying to find an alternate route plus the traffic congestion in general led to seven smaller accidents before the mess was finally cleared.

Two accidents at Cochrane Road and U.S. 101, plus a third at Cochrane Road at Cochrane Circle and a fourth at Cochrane Road and Butterfield Boulevard created more congestion at the north end of town.

Clogged roads were not only a problem in north Morgan Hill as commuters sought alternate routes, resulting in an accident at Tennant Avenue and Church Street and one at Tennant Avenue at Juan Hernandez Drive, in which a truck ran over a fire hydrant. There was a seventh accident at U.S. 101 and Dunne Avenue.

Swing said there were no injuries in the minor crashes.

Gilroy resident Gloria Diaz witnessed the second, minor accident as she exited southbound U.S. 101 onto Cochrane. She had already spent 45 minutes in traffic returning from a seminar in San Jose.

“I was driving down the off-ramp and saw one car smack right into the back of another,” said Diaz, who works at North Coast Medical in Morgan Hill. “He just wasn’t paying attention. It was stop and go.”

She later saw the drivers exchanging information and said they appeared to be OK.

Diaz’s colleague, Victor Pascali of Campbell, said he was content to hang out at Rosy’s at the Beach in downtown Morgan Hill while things cleared.

“I live in Campbell, so I’m stuck for now,” he said. “Just hanging out here till things calm down … ordering some tacos.”

Morgan Hill resident Bruce Gault was returning home from San Jose at 4:30pm when he encountered the traffic: a sea of cars moving southbound, many rubbernecking the cars frozen in the northbound lanes. On his motorcycle, Gault could weave between the stopped cars.

“I was passing people, and boy, I felt sorry for them!” said Gault. After returning to his home in the Madrone area, he watched diverted traffic streaming past his doorstep and decided not to make an afternoon business call in downtown Morgan Hill. “Coming off of Cochrane onto Monterey Road, it’s totally inundated with cars. It’s too much of a hassle to get back home, so I just didn’t go.”

City streets cleared up, however, once the highway was opened to traffic again.

“Once those lanes were opened, things got back to normal pretty quick,” said Swing. “I liken it to a flood; when it rains heavy, and systems are unable to handle that, you have flooding. When you have too many cars, things back up. But, as soon as the rain stops, or as soon as the cars can take the normal route again, things clear up pretty quick.”

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