I-20 crevice backs up traffic for hours

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 15, 2001

Vicksburg Patrolman Taffi Mills directs traffic on Interstate 20 West Thursday after a section of the concrete crumbled from temperatures that reached 92. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[06/15/01] Traffic was backed up on Interstate 20 West in Vicksburg for about eight hours Thursday after part of the highway buckled from steam pressure caused by heat.

Lamar Davis of the Mississippi Department of Transportation said the interstate between Clay Street and Indiana Avenue exploded like a pressure cooker at about 3 p.m. after water from this week’s rains built up beneath the pavement and heated up as the mercury soared to 92.

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“It happens quite often,” Davis said. “But this is the biggest one we’ve had since I’ve been working here.” Davis has been with MDOT for 14 years.

No one was injured but minor vehicle damage was reported. Two cars, a 1997 Acura and a 1994 Mazda Protege, had blowouts after hitting the damaged road before Vicksburg police officers were on the scene to direct traffic.

“I’m still in shock,” said Jennifer Dillon, a passenger in one of the cars. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It looked like an earthquake down there.”

A Lake Providence woman, Donna Winters, lost both tires on the passenger side of her Acura as she attempted to swerve and miss the damaged section of highway, Police Sgt. Robert Jackson said.

Traffic was routed to the shoulder to avoid the crevice.

MDOT crews removed the concrete and asphalt debris to smooth the area as much as possible and covered it with asphalt. The task was complete by about 11 p.m. Thursday.

Traffic returned to normal about a half-hour later, said Sgt. Beverly Prentiss.

Sedrick Durr, a spokesman in the MDOT office in Jackson, said the repairs would normally be temporary but it will be a while before a permanent fix can be made because the work can’t be fit into existing maintenance contracts.

Motorists on the road Thursday afternoon crept along the shoulder of the interstate as crews worked on the area. Although still moving, traffic was backed up past the U.S. 61 North off-ramp, Jackson said. Other motorists tried to avoid the interstate altogether and opted to take the Clay Street exit, which caused heavy congestion on Clay and required officers to direct traffic there as well.

Jamie Murphy, a Jackson resident who was headed toward the casinos and got stuck in the traffic jam during rush hour, said he sat at a near standstill for nearly half-an-hour.

“I don’t even have air conditioning in my car either,” he said.