Crash, toxic spill closes I-20

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Vehicles line the Interstate 20 bridge early this morning after a multi-vehicle crash and chemical spill. Ice on the bridge caused the crash at about 4 a.m. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Vehicles line the Interstate 20 bridge early this morning after a multi-vehicle crash and chemical spill. Ice on the bridge caused the crash at about 4 a.m. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

 

Vehicles line the Interstate 20 bridge early this morning after a multi-vehicle crash and chemical spill. Ice on the bridge caused the crash at about 4 a.m. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Vehicles line the Interstate 20 bridge early this morning after a multi-vehicle crash and chemical spill. Ice on the bridge caused the crash at about 4 a.m. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Warren County Emergency Management director John Elfer speaks to local news stations early this morning at the Mississippi Welcome Center after a multi-vehicle crash and chemical spill on the Interstate 20 bridge. Ice on the bridge caused the crash at about 4 a.m. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Warren County Emergency Management director John Elfer speaks to local news stations early this morning at the Mississippi Welcome Center after a multi-vehicle crash and chemical spill on the Interstate 20 bridge. Ice on the bridge caused the crash at about 4 a.m. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

A multi-vehicle crash involving a toxic chemical spill closed the Interstate 20 bridge over the Mississippi River and halted barges on the river itself this morning.
The crash occurred at about 4 a.m. on the Louisiana side of the bridge, and several people were injured. The exact numbers of injuries and vehicles involved were unclear at midmorning because the chemical spill prevented troopers from approaching the crash site,  Louisiana State Police spokesman Albert Paxton said.
“The initial crash had multiple 18-wheelers. I’ve heard as many as six,” Paxton said.
An undetermined amount of the chemical is believed to have leaked into the Mississippi River, officials said early this morning.
U.S. Coast Guard officials said they were assessing the impact of the spill this morning, and the Mississippi was closed to traffic.
Ergon Marine fleet manager Albert Smith said he was unaware of any barge traffic that might have passed though the spill during the 4 a.m. hour, moments before the river was closed to traffic.
Ice is believed to have caused the crash, said Warren County Emergency Manager John Elfer.
“There was some icing on the bridge that may have contributed to the collision,” Elfer said.
An area within a half-mile of the spill has been evacuated as a safety precaution, Paxton said.
It was unclear this morning when the bridge would re-open, Mississippi Department of Transportation officials said.
“The lanes will be closed until first responders have cleared the area,” said Jason Scott, spokesman for MDOT.
The tanker that ruptured was carrying a liquid chemical called isopropyl 2-chloropropionate, Elfer said.
The chemical, which is used in manufacturing certain agricultural chemicals, is highly flammable, and its heavier-than-air vapors are explosive, according to the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.
United States Environmental Services, a private company, was assessing and beginning to clean the spill this morning.
Interstate traffic was being rerouted via U.S. 61, Elfer said.
“They’re sending most people south to Natchez, but you can cross at Greenville if you need to,” Elfer said.
Vicksburg and Warren County emergency responders worked with the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and Louisiana State Police to rescue people who had been stranded on the bridge following the crash.
“It was a very well-coordinated response,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.
A fallen tree crashed through the roof a mobile home at 109 Choctaw Circle, Sheriff Martin Pace said.
“There were two adults in the home. One was in a bedroom. It actually crushed the ceiling of the mobile home down into the room where she was,” Pace said. “She had to crawl out of the room. Her adult daughter was in the living room. Both escaped uninjured.”
The falling tree also brought down power lines and a utility pole, Pace said.
Isolated power outages were reported across the county, and Twin County Power Association reported 700 customers without power in the Eagle Lake area after the ice storm. Power had been restored to Eagle Lake by 10 a.m., Twin County officials said.
Across the city and county, bridges, trees and utility lines were covered with ice.
“We began experiencing on bridges just after midnight,” Pace said. “All of the bridges in the north county have ice on them, but MDOT has been slagging the state highways and the county road department has been working on the county roads.”
At 9 a.m., Mississippi 465 between Eagle Lake and Australia Island Road was covered with ice, he said.