Crews Repair NB I-35 In Norman, Damaged After Semi Explosion

Thursday, July 11th 2013, 7:55 pm

By: News 9

It's a much different scene along I-35 in Norman, Thursday, after a semi truck exploded Wednesday night and shut down traffic.

Crews spent the day cleaning up the mess between Robinson and Tecumseh, and drivers are relieved now that all lanes have been reopened.

Drivers cautiously crept through I-35 in Norman Wednesday night once a truck carrying more than 4,000 gallons of highway paint went up in flames after a rear tire caught on fire.

"I was down here at the end of the street and I heard a big explosion and I saw all this black smoke and fire and cars stopping and it was just really crazy I couldn't go anywhere, so I had to stop and watch the whole drama fold out," said Teresa Rhame, supervisor at Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy.

"Fire trucks were coming up and getting people out of the way and people were just coming up taking pictures."

Police evacuated the nearby gymnastics gymnasium along with a few other buildings as the thick smoke spread.

7/10/2013 Related Story: Semi Truck Fire Shuts Down I-35 In Norman 

"As we came out, we saw people rushing out the door, and that's when I was in my office and I felt the shocks and you could hear them," said Alex Moore, Boys recreational program director at Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy. "So i stepped out, and we just saw the smoke pluming up and you could see the flames."

Norman Fire put out the flames, and ODOT crews spent all day Thursday cleaning up the big mess.

"When we were able to get in and actually assess the damages, we realized that the asphalt had in fact been damaged from the fire and the excessive heat," said Mills Gotcher of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. "About 80 feet of the right lane and the shoulder, so we went in and removed and repaired the asphalt this morning."

Crews worked for hours clearing debris and toxic waste from the side of the interstate. No one was hurt or injured during the explosion.

"It was just kind of scary because it was all the flames and smoke," Rhame said. "And I was just so thankful everyone made it out alive."

The truck driver involved in the fire was working for Blue Thunder Trucking Company. She picked up a load of striping paint from Ennis, Texas and was headed to Montana.

Gotcher  says once the Oklahoma Highway Patrol completes their accident report in the next few weeks, it should be able to recoup the money the state spent on the clean-up.


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