Aug 22, 2012 11:46 PM by AP
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - State and local authorities plan to evacuate an area near Interstate 10 where a tanker carrying flammable isobutane crashed in order to perform a controlled "vent and burn" of the chemical, authorities said Wednesday.
Officials said the evacuation will begin after 10 p.m., The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/P1atZ6 ). Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White said officers will go door-to-door to notify residents of the evacuation order.
Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Barry Mounce said the evacuation area will be a few hundred yards around the accident site. There was no word on how many homes would be affected. Mayor-President Kip Holden said parish officials are working with the American Red Cross to set up shelters for evacuees. The sites of those shelters have not been established yet.
A shelter-in-place will be in effect at nearby Our Lady of the Lake Hospital on Essen Lane, Mounce said, meaning anybody in the hospital will have to stay in the hospital. The hospital will not be accessible from Essen Lane once the evacuation is in place.
For the controlled vent and burn, authorities will attempt to blow two holes in the tank, ignite the isobutane and conduct a controlled burn, Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said. The truck was carrying 8,700 gallons of isobutane.
The decision to do a "vent and burn" was made after consulting with experts, Edmonson said. That process should take no more than 30 minutes, Baton Rouge Fire Chief Ed Smith said.
"The structural integrity (of the truck) is such that there appears to be no other option," White said.
"This was a freak accident," Edmonson said. "This hasn't happened anywhere else in the country."
The early morning crash closed all eastbound lanes of the interstate at the I-10/I-12 junction. I-10 westbound was blocked at Siegen Lane and the ramp from Interstate 12 westbound onto Interstate 10 eastbound also is closed.
Police said the accident happened when a car flipped around 3:45 a.m. after the driver lost control and hit a retaining wall. A tanker truck stopped for the accident and was rear-ended by another 18-wheeler. The tanker is carrying 8,700 gallons of isobutane, which is similar to the propane used for barbecue grills, said Cpl. L'Jean McKneely, a spokesman for Baton Rouge Police.
Isobutane vapor, which is highly flammable, has been leaking since the accident occurred. Troopers said the isobutane must be removed before the scene can be cleared.
There were at least two people injured.
The state Department of Transportation and Development urged motorists to use alternate routes because of the interstate closings, said Jodi Conachen, director of communications. Lights on Airline Highway have been adjusted, as they would for a hurricane evacuation, to improve traffic flow on that corridor, she said.