PORT CLINTON - A tanker truck carrying liquid asphalt overturned on State Rt. 2, spilling 8,500 gallons of the potentially dangerous material on the road and forcing the evacuation of about 10 nearby homes.
A portion of the busy highway - a major route between Toledo and Cleveland - was closed for hours while crews cleaned up the mess.
“One flick of a cigarette, and everything could have gone up in smoke,'' said Ohio Highway Patrol dispatcher Diana Coffman.
The truck driver, William Weber, 50, of Akron, was treated in Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton. He works for Advantage Tank Lines of Canton, Ohio.
Mr. Weber was cited for failure to control his vehicle, the patrol said.
Mr. Weber was eastbound on State Rt. 2 at about 5 p.m., when he drifted off the southeast side of the road. He tried to get back on the highway, but the tanker flipped over and skidded into a utility pole.
“At that point, the tanker separated from the front of the truck,'' she said.
Liquid asphalt is highly flammable. The vapors may form an explosive mixture with the air. The temperature of the asphalt was 350 degrees. An environmental company was called in to help clean up the material.
“It can be dangerous,'' Ms. Coffman said. “We evacuated the homes as a safety precaution.''
The accident was under investigation last night, authorities said.
Both lanes were closed for a half mile, while crews tried to clean up the spill. After two hours, authorities reopened the westbound lane, while they continued working on the eastbound side. Meanwhile, traffic had to be rerouted. Ottawa County's sheriff's office, Emergency Management Agency, the HAZMAT team, and several fire departments assisted at the scene.
The homes were evacuated for about an hour because of the fumes and potential safety hazard.
One of the evacuees, Raleigh Walters, said his wife saw the accident. Together they ran over to the tractor and pulled out the truck driver, who was shaken up, he said. “I came running out, and all I saw was dust, and my wife saw it and she was going bananas,'' he said.