Tanker carrying HF overturns

Tanker carrying HF overturns

Postby admin » Mon Apr 03, 2006 5:07 am

First Posted: 03 Mar 2006 03:54 am

Tanker carrying hazardous chemicals to be righted later today; evacuations ordered

The Clarion-Ledger - March 2, 2006

PEARL — Chemicals contained in a tanker truck that overturned early today on I-20 East are so dangerous that emergency workers approached the truck only to remove the injured driver and her husband, officials said this morning.

The truck carrying hazardous hydrogen fluoride anhydrous overturned at about 5:30 a.m. after the woman driving it went off I-20 East, into the median and then into the lanes I-20 West, Pearl Police Chief Bill Slade said during a mid-morning news briefing at Pearl City Hall.

The woman then went back into the median to return to I-20 East, overturning and covering both lanes of I-20 East with the trunk’s tanker in the process, Slade said.

Because hydrogen fluoride anhydrous, used to process gasoline, is so toxic, officials will close down both I-20 East and West from U.S. 49 to the Crossgates exit at Brandon when the tanker is righted later today, Slade said. Currently, only I-20 lanes between Pearson Road in Pearl and Crossgates Boulevard in Brandon are shut down.

The lanes could be shut down for up to 24 hours as emergency crews work to right the tanker this afternoon, officials said. Only diesel fuel has leaked from the tanker truck so far, Slade said.

Slade said a mandatory evacuation of area neighborhoods and businesses has been ordered.

Amanda Thomasson, a dispatcher with Pearl police, said mandatory evacuations are in effect for Gina Drive south of I-20 Randall Circle and Fox Run Apartments. A voluntary evacuation has been called for the Pine Park Subdivision in Pearl.

Also, Slade said, Pearl High on Pirate Cove off U.S. 80 would have to be evacuated if the truck is righted during school hours. Slade said he believes the truck will be righted after school ends for the day. The school backs up to I-20.

“The next critical phase is when they right the truck,” Slade said during the news briefing held with Rankin County Sheriff Ronnie Pennington. “The integrity of the truck is still good. The only people approaching the truck so far were the emergency personnel” to remove the injured.

He said the driver, whose name was not available, suffered a broken hand, and that her husband suffered minor injuries. They were taken to Baptist Hospital in Jackson, said Carrie Adams, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

“For whatever reason, she (the driver) left the road and went across the median,” Slade said. “She tried to get back on I-20 East and overturned.”

The truck can be seen from the air, covering both lanes of I-20, with its cab extending into the median. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality had a team at the scene, Adams said, but officials could not be reached for comment.

Shelter arrangements have been made at the Pearl Community Center for any residents needing it, officials said. Motorists are encouraged to travel on U. S. 80, Mississippi 25 or Mississippi 471 as alternate routes, officials said.

Traffic was all but paralyzed during the morning commute as vehicles were diverted onto U.S. 80 East and West. Lines of cars could be seen for several miles in both directions.

Hydrogen fluoride "is a toxic, very dangerous chemical," Adams said. She said that "there are no reported leaks" of the chemical from the tanker truck, which had left Houston, Texas and was en route to North Carolina.

According to the Web site for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, hydrogen fluoride is "a colorless, fuming liquid or gas with a strong, irritating odor. It is usually shipped in steel cylinders as a compressed gas."

The Web site says that "hydrogen fluoride readily dissolves in water to form colorless hydrofluoric acid solutions.

"Although hydrofluoric acid is weak compared with most other mineral acids, it can produce serious health effects by any route of exposure. These effects are due to the fluoride ion's aggressive, destructive penetration of tissues," the Web site says.

"Inhalation hazards result not only from exposure to hydrogen fluoride gas, but also from fumes arising from concentrated hydrogen fluoride liquid," the Web site says. "Even fairly low airborne concentrations of hydrogen fluoride produce rapid onset of eye, nose, and throat irritation."

If someone breathes the chemical, Slade said, “it will burn … Our biggest concern is if it gets on your skin. It’s tough stuff.”

Adams said the spill could force busy I-20 to be closed for 14 to 24 hours. The tanker truck overturned just east of the Pearson Road exit in Pearl.

DOT officials said I-20 between Mississippi 468 and Mississippi 475 was closed at 7 a.m.

Pearl resident Jean Maddox of 628 Randall Circle said a Pearl police detective awakened her at about 7:30 a.m. by knocking on her front door.

Maddox said the officer told her "something" was in the road. "I was told not to get on the interstate today," she said. She wasn't told to evacuate her neighborhood, Maddox said.

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