LAS VEGAS -- A bit of desert "carmageddon" hit the California-Nevada state line early Friday after a tanker crash and chemical spill forced the closure of busy Interstate 15, the main artery between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Highway patrol officials from both states said that a single northbound lane was opened heading into Las Vegas a few hours after the 6:30 a.m. accident between a tanker truck and a car. But the southbound lanes remained closed Friday morning, causing a nearly 10-mile-long backup into Nevada.
Officials hope to open a lane into California in the afternoon. Meanwhile motorists were taking detours around the mishaps.
Officials said the wreck happened several miles south of the state line town of Primm, Nev., where the Nevada highway patrol has erected a roadblock. The California Highway Patrol has northbound traffic stopped at Yates Well Road, Exit 291.
“So far, people seem to be doing pretty good,” said Nevada State Highway Patrol spokesman Loy Hixson. “Weather isn’t too hot yet, so many people are just turning around at Primm. We have billboards up to warn motorists. People are being patient.”
CHP spokesman trooper Adam Croxton said no one was hurt in the crash or from the spill. He said a hazardous materials crew was summoned to neutralize and remove 4,100 gallons of a liquid industrial corrosive called ferric chloride from the median.
“We need to make sure that people are not exposed to this chemical,” said Hixson. “You don’t want to inhale it or let it come in contact with your skin. It’s potentially dangerous.”
Croxton, who was at the scene, said the cleanup was expected to last until dusk. “We’re hoping to get everything cleaned up by dark,” he said. “Looking into California, I can see a five-mile backup from here. My guess is that it’s 15 miles.”
Officials said that there were a few possible detours that could add between one and two hours in traveling time. Motorists headed to California could take State Route 160 to Route 372 to Baker. Those trying to reach Nevada could detour to U.S. 95.
“But if you’re heading to Las Vegas, my advice is to be patient and just wait in line,” Croxton said.
Officials warned that motorists waiting in line should keep an eye on their engines. “We don’t want any overheated vehicles and people on the road,” said Hixson. “It’s going to be too hot out here for that.”
Leaving Las Vegas, at least for now, has rarely proved so difficult. “We’re doing this for our economy, you know that,” joked Hixson.
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