TDOT is asking drivers to please be patient and use caution in the area.
UPDATE: One lane of Highway 64 has reopened Wednesday night.
TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn says flaggers will be on-site to help with traffic control. TDOT is asking drivers to please be patient and use caution in the area. Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this story.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: TDOT says all lanes of Highway 64 are still closed Wednesday night as crews work to repair the road, damaged by a tanker truck crash in the Ocoee River.
Highway 64 has been closed for more than 24 hours at this point. TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn says road crews expect to reopen one lane of the highway on Wednesday night. “The truck has been removed from the scene and our crews are making repairs to the damaged roadway surface and replacing the guardrail that was damaged by the truck,” Flynn says in a release. “Once those repairs are made, estimated to be a couple of hours, one lane of travel will be restored.”
Here is a look at the tow trucks carrying out the tanker carrying the fuel that spilled into the Ocoee. @WRCB investigator will use this truck to determine the cause of the crash. pic.twitter.com/miRfmWfM7d
— Kasey Freeman🎥 (@KaseyWRCB) May 17, 2018
Flynn says once the highway is reopened, environmental crews will be at the scene for up to a week and a half to monitor the cleanup site, which will require TDOT to keep one lane closed. Flynn says flaggers will handle traffic control. Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this story. PREVIOUS UPDATE: Polk County Sheriff Steve Ross tells Channel 3 that Highway 64 will be closed until at least 6:00 Wednesday night. Crews are currently working to pull the tanker out of the water. The main connection from the Ocoee to several cities on the other side of the mountain is cut off. Road closures forced drivers to turn around. Eyewitnesses couldn’t believe what they saw on the side of the road.
“I looked over the side and saw the tail end of the oil tanker, I was quiet shocked to see it, I was like whoa,” said Chris Webb, driver. A tanker carrying thousands of gallons of fuel plunged into the Ocoee River. A group of rafting guides saw it happen. “We like slid by but we saw the truck in the water,” said Shannon Potter, Outdoor Adventure Rafting.
The tanker took out a guardrail too. “I guess the guardrail was crushed a bit where it went over, but I couldn’t see much damage from where I was,” Webb said. The driver is okay, but the crash caused Highway 64 to close, cutting off access to a road many rely on. “It’s going to send me back around to 411 through Ellijay by the looks of it,” Webb added.
Webb works in Blue Ridge and had to take a longer commute. “Without going an extra hour and a half to my journey it’s the only way to my job yes, it’s a big inconvenience,” he said. Businesses are worried these delays could impact their bottom line if their customers can’t reach them.
“There’s no short way to get around this, it’s several hours in either direction,” explained Jason Webber, works for rafting companies. OAR and other rafting companies aren’t sure how the spill could impact water quality. “I think since it’s going down stream it’ll fortunately flow the rest of the way,” said Potter. Drivers are trying to make the best of the situation. “If it’s not fixed by tomorrow I don’t know what I’m going to do, I might have to take a day off,” Webb said. Some businesses we spoke to tell us, all rafting trips this weekend are on schedule. Well let you know if that changes. Channel 3 will keep you updated as we learn more.
Sheriff Ross says the tanker is being pulled out of the river right now.
— Tim Pham (@TimPhamWRCB) May 16, 2018
PREVIOUS UPDATE: Crews from the Environmental Protection Agency are at the crash site Wednesday morning. They are assessing the fuel leak from the tanker to determine the possible environmental impact the spill may have on the waterway. The tanker was carrying 4,000 gallons of gas, and 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has said on the TDOT Smartway website that they expect to have the accident cleared by 3:00pm.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says a tractor-trailer crashed into the Ocoee River from Highway 64 Tuesday afternoon. It happened between mile markers 11 and 12 shortly before 5:00 p.m. Polk County EMA Director Steve Lofty tells Channel 3 that the semi was carrying 4,000 gallons of gasoline and 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which is slowly leaking into the river. Sgt. Alan Bailey with the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Polk County EMA and Hamilton County hazmat crews are working to clean up the spill. Two booms have been deployed to help contain the spill. Lofty says an environmental company has been called in to help with the cleanup. The crash has shut down all lanes of Highway 64 for the night. Sgt. Bailey says traffic is being redirected off of Highway 64 at County Road 314 on the Benton side and Porter Road on the Ducktown side. The driver of the truck, Glenn Morris from Hixson, is okay. He was taken by family members to a local hospital with minor injuries. Lofty says the cause of the crash is unknown at this time