Problems on I-10 continue overnight

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 11:44pm

After a day of dealing with nightmarish traffic conditions, morning commuters in Baton Rouge can expect to find more problems when they set out for the day.

“Tell your boss that you’re going to be late for work,” Mayor Kip Holden said during a press conference at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Overnight, 40 homes in the Essen Heights area had to be evacuated. The Red Cross established a shelter for those in need at the BREC facility located on Nairn Drive. The evacuations are a precautionary measure because workers spent the evening burning off the remaining isobutane spilled during the traffic crash.

"We're doing everything we can in a safe manner. Our number one priority is public safety and that will be the reason we do that all the way through," Col. Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police, said.

The isobutane was released by an 18-wheeler involved in a traffic crash on I-10 at around 3:40 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The tanker truck was carrying around 9,000 gallons of the chemical. It crashed after two vehicles collided. One vehicle hit the retainer wall, which caused it to overturn. That started the chain reaction that lead to the crash involving three 18-wheelers.

Two individuals were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

The most significant damage, however, was caused by a damaged release valve on the tanker truck.

“The valve you would normally use to offload the product was damaged beyond repair during the crash, so they have to use an alternative method to offload the product,” Trooper Graham, explained. “They have had to consult with specialists located across the country to try to figure out how to offload this chemical. All the problems are compounded by the fact that it’s leaking, but you can’t off load it because the valve is off the tank.”

Isobutane is a highly flammable material that can be ignited by the smallest spark. For that reason, a portion of I-10 was closed and remains closed at this time. The Department of Transportation and Development says that stretch of I-10 sees roughly 120,000 vehicles per day. The most significant issues related to the closure were felt during the morning, but remained throughout the day.

"We've been out here exactly two hours trying to get on the other side of Airline Highway," Donnie Pierson, a motorist stuck in traffic during the early afternoon, said.

For now it would seem the frustration felt by motorists will not end by morning. Officials did not indicate when I-10 would reopen. However, the crash that shut down traffic in the Capital City does not seem to be ending any time soon.

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