Road Trip to Client Meeting Skids Off-Course

Wild Winter Weather Strands SCJ Engineers, Turning Rental Car Into Makeshift Motel

Last week’s winter storm in Oregon was historic. It surprised meteorologists and stopped the masses in their tracks. For hundreds of motorists, including two from SCJ, that stop was literal and long.

Tuesday afternoon, SCJ engineers Charlie Severs and Brandon Johnson rented a rear-wheel drive Chrysler sedan and drove to Millersburg, Ore. for a Planning Commission meeting.

When they left the meeting at 7:30 that night, the weather was typical for a January evening, but by the time they reached Tigard, Ore. the storm had come in. The wintry conditions were so bad, their car slid off the off-ramp at exit 293, 10 miles south of Portland.

The gloveless men, dressed for indoor business not outdoor labor, worked to get their car back on the road, dodging other cars that were spinning out of control.

After three hours, knowing the closest lodging was 2 miles away and hundreds of others were stuck too, they decided to rough it. They slept in their car, cold and wet with a dead cell phone and no charger. To stay warm but conserve fuel, they would turn on the car for only 15 minutes every hour.

At 7 the next morning, they attempted to free the car again, only getting more stuck and sliding into the landscaping area off the road.

By 8:30, they came to the conclusion they weren’t getting home without other means and spotted a Landmark Ford dealership on other side of the freeway.

Hope soared they would have chains, but Tim from the dealership’s parts department gave them both good news and bad. They didn’t have chains, but there was an auto parts store a few miles away that did.

Their good Samaritan offered to drive, waited while they got what they needed, and drove them back to their car.

While it only took Tim a few minutes to help out, it saved Brandon and Charlie hours of walking time and ensured they were able to purchase the chains before they were sold out. In Brandon’s words, “Without Tim, we wouldn’t have gotten back home to Centralia on Wednesday.”

Charlie Severs and Brandon Johnson

After getting the chains on, not without first breaking one of the linkages, jerry-rigging it, and hoping it would hold, the duo set off at 11 a.m., northward up I-5. They drove 15 miles per hour through Portland, passing hundreds of disabled vehicles, and finally passing into Washington state.

Late Wednesday afternoon, their “day trip,” which had turned into a two-day adventure, came to an end and just in the nick of time. Both Brandon and Charlie are part of our newest office in Centralia, and its official ribbon-cutting ceremony was scheduled for the very next day.

“This is a trip we will never forget,” Brandon said. “Not just for the night we spent in the car off I-5 or the fear of missing our own celebration, but for the compassion we were shown in our time of need. Tim, thank you for your time, effort and kindness and for getting us back home to our families.”

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