U.S. 64 shutdown in Murphy snarled traffic, closed several businesses
A tanker carrying close to 9,000 gallons of fuel wrecked Monday morning in Cherokee County, causing major delays for drivers. The accident happened around 2:30 a.m. on U.S. 64 in Murphy, North Carolina. The truck did not spill any fuel onto the road but getting the tanker back upright, and the fuel into another truck was no easy task.
It took more than nine hours to get things moving again. Students and teachers were not only delayed in getting to school, but several businesses were closed down as crews worked to clear the scene.
"It affects local businesses and commercial traffic back and forth. It's a major thoroughfare between Murphy, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee," says Murphy Fire Chief Al Lovingood.
Traffic crawled Monday morning on Highway 64 in Murphy. A tanker ran into the median, flipping on its side.
"Small vehicle traffic was rerouted about 10 miles and commercial traffic about 40 miles," says Lovingood.
Chief Lovingood says his team had no choice but to shut down the main corridor. Even though fuel was not leaking from the rig, it was still too risky to have cars drive by.
"Next for us was to make sure we didn't have any combustible gas, so we initiated atmospheric monitoring to make sure that our area was safe."
While responders waited on the trucking company to send in its hazard materials team, all local businesses could do was wait.
"I got a 911 alert. I'm not sure what you call it," says Mary Merrick.
Mary Merrick was just one of many in the area to receive a public safety call warning of the crash. She knew there was no rush to open up Leroy's Used Furniture.
"Anything and everything is on 64, or the Ocoee, to go through the Ocoee. So it's just as bad as if when the Ocoee's down," says Merrick.
"Two different people was setting out here waiting on this parts house to open," says Jim White.
White says the shut down definitely did not help his business.
"I'm selling Christmas trees here, so with no traffic on the road, I wasn't selling anything."
"It was a mess. Could have been much worse," says Chief Lovingood.
Chief Lovingood says considering the contents of the truck, it was better to err on the side of caution.
"You always want to consider safety first," he says.
"I guess it's about over with now, but I've still got a few Christmas trees to sell," White says with a laugh.
It is not clear why the driver ran off the road but he was alert and talking to emergency responders. He was sent to a hospital to get checked out.