A 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday detour along the ORV routes in between Buxton and Frisco led to dozens of vehicles getting stuck, and plenty of work for local tow trucks.
The full-day detour was due to the replacement of two cross pipes under N.C. Highway 12 in between Delmer Willis Road and Sunset Strip in Frisco.
Though a detour that bypassed N.C. Highway 12 was established from ORV ramp 49 in Frisco to ORV ramp 44 in Buxton, it was only accessible by 4WD vehicles due to the all-sand route.
It was this distinction that kept the tow trucks busy.
Jarvis Williams Sr. of Jarvis Towing and his son spent the duration of the highway closure patrolling the route, and helping vehicles get unstuck or transported to their destination throughout the day.
Jarvis estimates that the father and son team pulled out approximately 30 vehicles throughout Sunday, which included just five or so vehicles that had 4WD.
“Most of the vehicles that got stuck were smaller cars and vehicles with all-wheel drive,” said Jarvis. “So we just stayed to help out. We would drive from ramp 49 to the beach, and every once in a while, we would check out the entire road.”
“We just kept rolling all day, patrolling the beaches, because once someone got stuck, they would hold up traffic.”
Jarvis reports that the non-4WD vehicles would only make it several hundred feet from either the northern or southern start of the detour, while the AWD northbound vehicles would make it roughly .75 miles until they arrived at ramp 48.
“That was the worst spot,” said Jarvis. “We knew that spot would be trouble from just towing there in general. There’s a little change in the elevation there, which is just enough to slow smaller vehicles down.”
Very few of the vehicles that were stuck had aired down their tires, and several trucks were able to maneuver out of the ruts themselves once they were advised to slack their tires down to 18-20 psi.
In addition to the 30 vehicles who accidentally found themselves in need of help, Jarvis Towing also received about 13 calls from folks who knew of the detour, but who needed to get through. In these instances, the team would give the cars a ride through the detour on the back of the company’s flatbed truck.
“Some people knew they couldn’t drive through, like [several military personnel] who were heading north from Ocracoke, and who had to get back to Camp Lejeune,” said Jarvis. “We put their Mustang on the flatbed, and were able to get them safely to Buxton.”
The ruts grew deeper and more challenging throughout the day, reports Jarvis, and one stuck vehicle would often have a domino effect. “If one car got stuck, it would cause a back-up. We might end up with two or three more vehicles getting stuck because of the [initial] one,” said Jarvis. “It came in spurts, and it got busy in the middle of day. We were calling it ‘ferry traffic’ – All of a sudden you’d get hit, and then it would slow down.”
The company pulled out their last vehicle – a large diesel truck that was stranded on The Point – at around midnight, and though it was a full day, there were no vehicles still stuck on the detour come Monday morning.
“It was almost more like a service for the community,” said Jarvis. “We knew the detour was going to [cause problems], so we stayed out all day, patrolling, and did the best we could.”