Gale Carpenter, a truck driver from Jefferson, Ore., saw the sign just as he pulled his 14-foot-tall rig under the San Diego Freeway on Harbor Boulevard: Vertical Clearence (sic) 13'-10".
The sign maker may not have been a great speller, but the measuring was correct. Steel girders protruding from the freeway stopped Carpenter's truck cold and tore off the top of the trailer, which belongs to Gordon Trucking Inc. of Sumner, Wash.
The accident stopped just about everything else in the vicinity for the next few hours too, as crews repaired the damage caused by the truck to wooden supports under the steel beams beneath the freeway.
Harbor Boulevard was closed at the freeway for about 3 1/2 hours, backing traffic up on nearby streets and affecting traffic from South Coast Plaza the day before Christmas Eve.
Carpenter had just delivered his cargo to the Price Club in Santa Ana and was traveling south on Harbor Boulevard to get on the freeway at about 2:40 p.m., Costa Mesa Police Officer Phil Dickens said.
Would Clear Normally
The truck would normally clear the overpass, but a Caltrans widening project on the freeway has cut about a foot off the clearance for the last month. "He knew how high the truck was, but he didn't see the sign until he was right on it," Dickens said. "He braked, but he was already underneath it."
Getting the truck out from under the overpass was no problem, Dickens said, but the wooden supports for the steel girders had been knocked out of alignment, so authorities were concerned that the metal beams might fall if the supports gave way. The Costa Mesa-based Kasler Corp., which is widening the freeway, brought skiploaders out to hold the beams while the supports were realigned.
Harbor Boulevard was reopened at 6:15 p.m., Dickens said. No injuries were reported, and Carpenter was not cited.