November 4, 2013

Hundreds of turkeys died Sunday on U.S. Highway 20 when wind gusts of nearly 50 mph toppled a large trailer that was parked on the highway's shoulder.

A semitrailer truck that carried the 760 birds - on their way to a Sara Lee processing plant in Storm Lake - was westbound on the highway just northwest of Sac City that night when the truck sustained an unspecified mechanical malfunction, according to a Sac County Sheriff's report.

The truck's driver stopped on the highway near its intersection with Perkins Avenue and detached the trailer.

It was a gusty day - with sustained winds of 35 mph in Storm Lake and Carroll and spurts of 47 mph - and that, paired with a highway shoulder that was still soft from the construction of the highway that opened less than a year ago, tipped over the trailer about 6:30 p.m., Sheriff Ken McClure said.

"We don't call that an accident. We classify that as an act of God," McClure said.

The winds were the result of low-atmospheric pressure that followed a period of high pressure earlier that weekend, said Kurt Kotenberg, a National Weather Service meteorologist. They were bolstered by 60 mph winds that were measured several thousand feet above the ground.

Turkeys in the top level of the trailer burst out when it fell over. The others - many of them dead - remained inside, and firefighters cut holes in the trailer to retrieve them.

McClure estimated that 70 percent of the turkeys died, which is more than 500.

The westbound lanes of the highway were closed to traffic periodically over the course of four hours as workers corralled the birds and towed the trailer.

The escaped birds that survived did not flee the scene, McClure said.

"At least, we haven't had any reports of any turkeys on the loose," he said.