Truck spill closes I-84

Written by Jayson Jacoby and Chris Collins October 19, 2012 09:44 am

By Jayson Jacoby

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A truck hauling a corrosive liquid along Interstate 84 sprang a leak Thursday night, closing the freeway for several hours and forcing some North Powder residents to evacuate as a precautionary measure.

An Oregon State Police trooper from La Grande was treated and released at Grande Ronde Hospital after possible exposure to the substance, said OSP Sgt. Kyle Hove.

No other injuries were reported.

“I got woken up out of a dead sleep,” said Jim Hebert, whose wife, Bonita, is mayor of the town of 440 in Union County, about 20 miles north of Baker City.

Jim Hebert said members of the North Powder Rural fire department arrived about 10 p.m. and said that residents within half a mile of the leaking truck were urged to evacuate.

Hebert said he and his wife walked to a nearby neighbor’s home, where they stayed until after midnight.

Sue DeHaas, who with her husband, Mike, owns the North Powder Motel, said four rooms were occupied Thursday night.

Fire crews coordinated the evacuation of the motel guests, Sue DeHaas said.

She and her husband, and a motel employee, decided to drive to La Grande to have a late dinner at Denny’s.

With the freeway still closed, they had to take back roads on the way back, and they returned to North Powder about 3:30 a.m., DeHaas said.

The freeway was closed about 8 p.m. Thursday and re-opened about 5 a.m. today, Hove said.

The truck driver, whose name wasn’t available, noticed his load was leaking and stopped the truck, which was hauling triple trailers, on the westbound off-ramp at North Powder, Hove said.

An OSP trooper from Baker City talked with the driver and, after learning about the truck’s contents, called in a hazmat team from NRC Environmental of Kennewick, Wash., to stop the leak and deal with the liquid.

It’s not clear what caused the leak, Hove said.

The liquid when released from storage tanks can turn into a potentially explosive gas, he said.