This morning around 4:30 a tanker truck carrying propane overturned, blocking traffic and puncturing the tank. The driver was injured but was safely removed from the truck cab and transported to a nearby hospital. Responders shut down the highway and secured the perimeter and no other injuries were reported. The material in the tanker was initially reported as butane or propane, on-scene observations revealed it to be HAZMAT placard 1075 which indicated “Petroleum gases, liquefied or Liquefied petroleum gas.”
The Fort Bend County Emergency Operations Center partially activated at Level 2.
A nearby school, Beasley Elementary School, approximately 1.5 miles from the scene of the crash went into a voluntary shelter-in-place as a cautionary measure. As a cautionary measure, the adjacent rail line was shut down but a train had already stopped near the wreck so the crew evacuated from the train cars and waited safely away from the wreck.
A detour was established around the crash site for both north and southbound traffic, although motorists experienced heavy delays.
The Fire Marshal’s Office flew their DJI Inspire 1 over the crash site, inspecting the markings on the truck and trailer, and identified the carrier and also identified the substance aboard the tanker as propane. The heavy gas flowing from the crash scene caused a foggy plume on the ground flowing south from the tanker, somewhat contained between the concrete barriers (pictured below).
The HAZMAT response team established air monitoring in a parameter. Partners on-scene include: Fort Bend County Fire Marshal’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Medical Services, Office of Emergency Management, Rosenberg Fire & Police, TxDOT, Texas DPS, and Beasley Volunteer Fire Department.
The response contractor arrived on-scene and the HAZMAT team continued assessing danger immediately around the crash site with the help of the Sheriff’s Office thermal camera mounted to their helicopter and the sharp eyed pilots. Crews were prepared to tap the tank to transfer excess material to other tankers, tap the tank and flare the gas, or simply turn the tanker upright and tow it.
Lamar Consolidated Independent School District reported that Beasley Elementary school released their students as planed at 2:40.
The Office of Emergency Management was granted a operational waiver from the FAA to fly drones at twilight and evening in case the operation were to go past sunset out of an abundance of caution. This waiver allows the County pilots to operate the drones at a time of day that is not usually allowed, provided the drones meet the lighting requirements of aircraft for night operations.
TxDOT and DPS developed a traffic management plan to route the US-59 traffic around the crash site, and law enforcement manned traffic control points to help traffic flow more smoothly, as shown in the photo below provided by TxDOT.
Most of the gas had leaked from the tanker by the time crews were ready to take action, so no transferring or flaring was required.
Fire crews sprayed the area around the tanker with fire suppressing foam to reduce the risk of sparks, and heavy wreckers began hoisting the tanker upright.
Once the tanker was lifted upright and towed form the scene, TxDOT crews inspected the road surface to ensure it was safe to reopen the Highway and determined that the highway had been significantly damaged and had to be repaired. The northbound main lanes of the highway have been reopened. A direct detour will be established early Thursday morning for southbound traffic until the road surface can be repaired, hopefully by late-afternoon Thursday.
Drivers are advised to avoid the area and plan for extra travel time due to detours.
Additional information will be posted tomorrow as roadway repair progress is made. Drivers should check www.DriveTexas.org, follow @TxDOTHoustonPIO on Twitter, and continue checking the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management’s Twitter and Facebook pages.