U.S. Route 50 closed after truck spills powder

September 12, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A truckload of fine powder intended to make faces beautiful created an ugly mess for Ocean City-bound travelers late Friday and early yesterday, closing U.S. 50 near Kent Island for about four hours.

A westbound tractor-trailer truck hit a guardrail and dumped 25-pound bags of the powder into the median of the heavily traveled highway about a half-mile east of the the Kent Narrows Bridge about 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Whipped by high winds, the white zinc-stearate powder formed a blowing cloud that obscured vision and halted traffic until 12:30 a.m. yesterday, said Sgt. L. E. Wheeler of the Centreville State Police barracks.

Although Route 18 also was closed at first, traffic eventually was diverted onto Route 18, then back to U.S. 50, police said. As

traffic backed up 10 miles toward the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, )) lanes on U.S. 50 gradually were opened.

But two lanes of U.S. 50 still were closed yesterday morning, as crews cleaned up the remainder of the powder -- a nonhazardous material used as a base for soap or cosmetics. The substance is a mild irritant to skin, eyes and the respiratory system, state police and highway officials said.

"If you can imagine [handling] a whole load of talcum powder with a loader bucket, that's what it's like," said John Tucker, the State Highway Administration's resident maintenance engineer in Centreville.

On Friday night, he said, "There was a cloud of dust so big you couldn't see, so the fire department shut down the road until they could get a handle on what they were dealing with." Because they could see warning labels, emergency crews hesitated before using water to control the powder.

The truck driver told police that he had brake trouble while westbound on U.S. 50, Sergeant Wheeler said. The truck went into the median near Jackson Creek Road, hitting the guard rail ** and a support post for an overhead sign.

Henry Pierce, 45, a driver for Blue & Gray Transportation of Richmond, Va., was charged with negligent driving, the sergeant said. Mr. Pierce was treated at the scene Friday night for minor injuries.

Area residents were calling the barracks about respiratory problems, Sergeant Wheeler said. One man reported his house and car covered with powder.

"We're still clearing away the dust and bags and debris," Mr. Tucker said. Temporary concrete barriers had replaced the guardrail, and crews had spread sand to clean the road.

The cleanup probably will continue this week, he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.