30-foot tumbleweed pileup traps cars, semi-truck on Washington highway

It took authorities more than 10 hours to clear the highway on New Year's Eve.

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By Minyvonne Burke

Invasion of the tumbleweeds.

A few people in Washington state spent part of their New Year's Eve trapped in their cars after winds blew a massive amount of tumbleweeds onto a highway.

The incident happened on Highway 240 in Benton County near Yakima, a city about 150 miles southeast of Tacoma. Washington State Patrol Trooper Chris Thorson told NBC News that 911 calls started to come in around 6:30 p.m. about people trapped in their vehicles.

He said winds that night were between 40 to 50 mph and it took about 30 minutes for the tumbleweeds to fully encase five cars and partially trap a semi-truck. The highway in both directions was closed for more than 10 hours in order for the tumbleweeds to be removed.

Photos released by the Washington State Patrol shows transportation workers clearing the roughly 30-foot pileup. The state Department of Transportation had to send two snowplows to help clear the road.

"I worked in this area for 20 years and never seen tumbleweeds encase a car before," Thorson said.

The occupants of two vehicles were so scared that they abandoned their vehicles on the highway and hitched a ride with strangers to get away from the area, according to Thorson.

Authorities said no injuries were reported, but the tumbleweed invasion did leave some trapped motorists annoyed.

"Some of them had to ring in their New Year fully encased in tumbleweeds," Thorson told The Seattle Times, adding that those stuck in their cars "were not as amused as the rest of the people watching."

"We've officially dubbed it 'Tumbleggedon 2020'," he added.