Several people were stuck in their cars as the clocks struck midnight on New Year’s Eve after becoming trapped by piles of tumbleweed up to 20-30ft high (6-9 metres).
A US highway in Washington state had to be closed in both directions at around 6.30pm on New Year’s Eve due to the balls of dry plants blowing in.
Trooper Chris Thorson of Washington state patrol said five cars and one truck had been trapped in the tumbleweeds, in an incident which he dubbed “tumblegeddon”.
The plants were so thick that snow ploughs had to be used to clear the scene.
And it was 10 hours before authorities were able to reopen State Route 240 near West Richland around 4.30am on New Year’s Day.
“People were still stuck at midnight and rung in the new year trapped under the weeds,” he said.
Trooper Thorson said after the sun had risen, one car was found abandoned with no one in it.
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He said nobody had been injured in the incident and there were no collisions.
#tumblegeddon After 10 hours of SR 240 being closed last night on New Year’s Eve, it was opened around 0430 thanks to @WSDOT_East We still have one abandon car trapped in the tumbleweeds that was found at daylight, luckily no one was in it. pic.twitter.com/df7XbnqafE
— Trooper C. Thorson (@wspd3pio) 1 January 2020
Washington state department of transportation said on Twitter: “Big thanks to our crews who spent all #NewYearsEve2020 dealing with tumbleweeds.
“Which, in a million years, was not something I expected to start the year tweeting about.”
The National Weather Station reported wind gusts of 30-40mph throughout most of the night on Highway 240 northwest of Richland.
Tumbleweed are dry plants which have detached from their root or stem and roll due to the force of the wind.