Mountain Rescue After Blizzard Traps Plow Truck Driver

Dec 21, 2016

Credit Mike Wood

A blizzard in the Beartooth Mountains outside Cody, trapped snow plow drivers and even the tow truck that came to pull them out. An amazing rescue saved one plow truck driver who spent all night in the cab of his plow. He survived deadly cold and wind.

In Cody on Monday morning, just as temperatures rose above freezing for the first time in four days, blinding blowing snow trapped a big backhoe in a drift, and it had to be pulled out with another rig.

All over town, tow truck operators were pulling cars out of the snow, even as the blizzard blinded them. One of the men who saved Wyoming Department of Transportation tow truck drivers, says conditions in the mountains outside Yellowstone Sunday morning were much worse.

Eagle Recovery Owner Mike Wood said, “The temperature gauge on one of our trucks was reading 65 below zero.”

Mechanic and Tow Truck Operator Brian Bragg remembered, “The wind was blowing 55 or 60 miles an hour at least.”

The weather was so bad 25 miles outside Cody on the Chief Joseph Highway Saturday night, a WYDOT snow plow was stuck in the drifts.

Tow truck operator, Josh Parson, drove a huge rig up the mountain to bring the snow plow and its driver back home to safety. Another snow plow led him toward the tight curves and switchbacks, but, Parson explained,  “The truck that was guiding me hit the first drift, and it took him right off the road.”

Parson pulled him back on the road. They were headed to the stranded plow driver deep in the mountains.

“And that’s when we hit the big drift, probably five or six feet deep truck slid off again,” Parson said. “And then that’s when I went in…we started sliding off the road.”

The boss, Mike Wood got the call then. It was two a.m. His wife begged him not to go.

Carisa Wood explained, “When I looked at the temperature and the situation and where they were going, I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen it like that before.”

Wood knew it would be dangerous. When he Bragg arrived to pull out the snowplows and the huge tow truck, it was even worse than he imagined.

He said, “From the tow truck to one of my wreckers, it was cold enough to freeze my eyelids in that 200 feet.”

The men got the large tow truck, and the snowplow back on the road. But the snowplow kept getting stuck in the drifts. Wood said one three foot drift was a mile long. The distant plow operator was alone in the dark and cold, miles away.

But Wood and Bragg finally made it up to the plow that had been stranded all night long. They found the driver was safe. 

“He was warm, in good spirits. He was happy to see us.”

They turned the plow around in the road. Wood says the plow truck driver started plowing again, clearing the road back to Cody.

Woods’ crew continued to pull cars and trucks out of drifts through Monday. Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Cody Beers said his plow crews continued to clear the roads for night and day through Monday.