I-20 buckles again, stalls traffic

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 23, 2001

Vicksburg Police direct traffic around a jumbled section of Interstate 20 West between Indiana Avenue and Halls Ferry Road Saturday afternoon. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/23/01] Hot weather made Interstate 20 West buckle Saturday for the second time this summer, indirectly causing an accident that injured two Vicksburg men.

A one-inch-wide segment of pavement spanning the right lane of the highway between Indiana Avenue and Halls Ferry Road exploded at about 3:30 p.m. after expanding in temperatures that hovered in the low 90s all afternoon, said Jeff Skipper of the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

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“The concrete got to the point where it had nowhere to go, so it just blew up,” said Skipper, assistant foreman of the MDOT crew that worked four hours Saturday to repair the highway.

Traffic was reduced to one lane between Indiana and Halls Ferry as the MDOT crew fixed the hole, and the resulting delay was believed to cause one wreck.

A 1996 GMC Yukon driven by Mary Jo Wright, 56, 159 Joyce Lane, ran into the back of a 1997 Chevrolet pickup that had just been parked on the right shoulder of I-20 near the Indiana Avenue overpass by Shawn Neihaus, 22, 215 Cairo Drive, and Daniel Thompson, 25, 3916 Halls Ferry Road.

Patrolman Darryl Floyd of the Vicksburg Police Department said both vehicles had pulled off the road at the same time to avoid hitting the backed-up traffic. Wright, who was on her way home from visiting her father in a Jackson hospital, said she got off the highway when she saw the Chevrolet brake and then hit it on the shoulder.

“I saw their lights go on, and I knew the only way I was going to keep from hitting them was to get off the road,” Wright said. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out that way.”

Wright was not injured.

I-20 also buckled on June 15, when hot weather combined with recent rains to make the highway explode “like a pressure cooker” between Indiana Avenue and Clay Street. In that episode, a car lost its tires by running into the upturned pavement.

Skipper said Saturday’s buckling was not as severe as the one in June.

“That was a nightmare,” he said. “This is much smaller, so it won’t take nearly as long to clean up.”

Skipper said buckling is not unusual in Mississippi summers.

“Whenever the weather gets like this, we’re not surprised,” he said. “It’s about 90, and it feels like it’s about 100, so that’s going to take a toll on the highway.”