LINDEN, N.J. — One of the busiest roadways in New Jersey was shut down all day on Wednesday, and is not expected to be fully reopened until Thursday morning's rush following a massive gasoline spill that affected Highways 1 and 9 along with a major waterway nearby.
Around 8:30 a.m., a semi-trailer tanker truck made a left turn at the intersection of Route 1 and 9 and North Stiles Street, and rolled over onto its side, hard, police said. So hard, that the impact cracked open the truck's payload tank.
"The tanker was carrying about 8,500 gallons," said Chief Joseph Dooley of the Linden Fire Department. "It had filled up at a local facility so that the entire load was there and began to drain."
Some of the gasoline poured right into nearby sewer drains that flow to nearby Morses Creek. It, in turn, flows to waterways that lead to the ocean. The key mission was to stop the gasoline from getting far, first responders said. They set up floating berms in the creek to contain the gasoline. They also evacuated the Crown Hotel, which is located immediately adjacent to the creek.
A half-block from the creek are houses and another inn, called the Bentley Motel. In both the neighborhood and at the motel, authorities gave specific instructions.
"There's a lot of vapor in the air," Bentley Motel worker Tom Shek said. "They told everybody not to smoke here."
Katrice Diggs lives in a home a few doors over from the motel.
"All it takes is a match or cigarette," she told PIX11 News, for the situation to become far more dangerous. Someone unaware could "drop a cigarette, and then what?"
On lampposts around the area, no-smoking signs were posted prominently, and there was little evidence that anybody was violating the order.
As for the crash scene, it took three heavy duty tow trucks to upright the tanker. That was one of the main challenges for reopening the roadway, but having it return to normal could take many hours into the night and beyond, according to the fire chief.
"We will get this road opened as soon as we can [do it] safely," Chief Dooley said.