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Stroke of luck saves Auburn golf pro in rainstorm rollover

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn driver is lucky to be alive after his SUV slid off rain-slickened Highway 193 in Newcastle Wednesday morning and flipped over. The accident was one of several incidents, ranging from landslides to flooding to downed trees that kept emergency personnel busy overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday morning as torrential rains kept falling in the darkness. Officer John Olson of the California Highway Patrol said Phil Green was fortunate to walk away from a wreck that could have been much worse if there had been roadside trees, a rock outcropping or a utility pole in the way of the vehicle. While oak trees and a pole sat dangerously close to the path Green’s out-of-control SUV took, the sliding vehicle missed anything that would have stopped the wild ride. The SUV rolled over as it veered off the road and down a 4½-foot embankment and turned over before stopping in a grassy field right-side up. Green, 44, said he was amazed he emerged uninjured and thankful that the accident hadn’t been much worse. He gave some credit to his seatbelt, which he was wearing at the time of the crash. The vehicle’s top had been crushed – but only at the back and not in the area of the driver’s compartment. A total of 1.46 inches of rain fell starting from 5 p.m. Tuesday in a storm that started to let up by mid-morning Wednesday. The National Weather Service is forecasting another storm that should be at its strongest during the day Friday, with snow levels dropping to as low as 3,500 feet. Green, a golf pro and owner of Newcastle’s Home on the Range golf practice facility, had been traveling in the rain to Lincoln to finalize a new golf program at Glen Edwards Middle School similar to the one he started at E.V. Cain Middle School in Auburn. Coming out of a sharp turn on westbound Highway 193 between Newcastle and Lincoln, the SUV started to skid and traveled across into the oncoming lane of traffic. Green caught his first break at that point. There wasn’t a car on the road heading the other direction. Olson said he was told by Green that he attempted to turn into the skid but the car continued off the road before turning over. Green estimated his speed at 35 mph, he said. No citation was issued but it was a wake-up call for drivers to be extra careful during rainstorms, Olson said. “I could see the whole thing happening and could hear the glass breaking,” Green said. “But in the end, the Lord must’ve thought I needed to get another golf program going.” While the accident crushed the top of the vehicle and crumpled the front end, Green was smiling minutes after the crash and dryly joking that his daughter was going to kill him for breaking her favorite sand wedge – one of several golf clubs he had with him in the SUV. And he was also talking about readjusting his driving – on the road, that is. “I’m going to be the guy in the slow lane doing 50 with everyone honking at me,” Green said. With overnight rains saturating the foothills, Caltrans and the CHP set up traffic controls on Highway 193 earlier Wednesday morning when a car collided with a tree, blocking traffic at about 4 a.m. Caltrans also reported cleaning fallen rocks off the rural, winding Highway 193 overnight. A crew was also busy near the American River confluence, where a mudslide sent debris onto Highway 49 between Auburn and Cool.