MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thursday morning’s rain may be to blame for two crashes that caused headaches for drivers on Lamar Avenue all morning and lead to diesel fuel spilling into the Nonconnah Creek.
No one was hurt, but a hazmat team had to be called in to clean up about a hundred gallons of diesel fuel that leaked from a FedEx truck onto the highway and into the creek.
Lamar Avenue between American Way and I-240 was partially shut down for more than six hours as crews worked to clean up the dangerous leak, caused when the FexEx truck crashed into a guardrail around 2:30 a.m.
"There were approximately 150 gallons of diesel fuel on the truck – he had fueled up. Approximately 100 gallons leaked from that tank," said Lt. Wayne Cooke with the Memphis Fire Department.
Crews vacuumed up enough fuel to fill at least two 55-gallon containers, and poured a grainy, sand-like absorbent onto the highway to soak up what they could. But not before fuel drained through the overpass and into the water of the Nonconnah Creek below.
"It is really a mess," said Randy Sharp, who was struggling to find a way around the traffic snarl on his way to work. "I don’t know what happened, but it’s really bad... I’m trying to hurry and get to work."
The crash shut down the eastbound lanes and slowed down traffic in the westbound lames of Lamar Avenue – one of the busiest streets in the city – leading to huge delays for drivers during the height of rush-hour traffic.
"I was headed down to Airways and now I’ve got to go all the way up here and take Airways off of Democrat," one truck driver told WREG.
Farther down the street at Lamar and Davidson Road, another crash involving 18-wheelers sent two people to the hospital.
Sharp said the detour cost him about 25 minutes.
"We had to re-route all the way back around in order to get to this point," he said.
While definitely a hassle for drivers, some tried to practice patience and see the silver lining.
"I’m just grateful that everything is as well as it is," said Gail Sharp. "It could be worse."
Memphis police are still investigating what caused the crashes, but the slippery roads likely didn’t help matters, Lt. Cooke said.
Lt. Cooke also tells WREG the U.S. Coast Guard, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Office of Emergency Management are looking into the fuel leak.