Tomatoes Spill Onto Interstate, Causing Crashes, Quips and Confusion

Sometimes in Solano County, California, where more than half of the land is used for agriculture, residents can smell the soil of tomatoes as large trucks haul produce south to the Bay Area. These trucks typically hold about 50,000 pounds of tomatoes in a fiery red pile. A few sometimes get lost to the side due to sharp turns or strong bumps on the road.

But around 5 a.m. on Monday, more than 150,000 tomatoes were scattered on Interstate 80 in Vacaville, California, after a large rig transporting them collided with a vehicle and changed course, crashing into another car before slamming into the middle divider. , said Officer Jason Tyhurst of the California Highway Patrol.

The fist-sized tomatoes covered the eastbound lanes of the Interstate for a distance of about 200 feet, creating a red mass that appeared to be about “two feet deep,” Officer Tyhurst said. . He added that he is not hyperbolic in terms of depth.

Before long, motorists on the interstate in the early morning hours failed to spot the tomatoes and drove over them, essentially creating a tomato-juice mixture of water, oil, and dirt. Road conditions became dangerously slippery.

“Those tomato skins, man,” said Officer Tyhurst. “Once they hit the asphalt, it’s like walking on ice.”

Tyhurst Police said a car got stuck on the slippery road and was then hit by another vehicle. He added: “The tomatoes quickly set off a chain reaction of collisions.

Seven cars were involved in the crash. Three people, including the truck driver, suffered minor injuries and a fourth person was hospitalized with a broken leg, Officer Tyhurst said.

The California Highway Patrol closed nearly every lane on both sides of Interstate 80, causing traffic and delays for morning commuters who looked like cleanup crews. The California Department of Transportation works to clear the tomatoes.

“We didn’t see that amount of tomatoes falling off trucks and closing highways,” said department spokesman Vince Jacala. “Like, usually a couple here and there.”

When he saw pictures of the tomato-strewn interstate road, Mr. Jacala said he thought to himself, “Wow, the highway will be closed for a while.”

Maintenance crews used an “excavator like a hoe” to clear the road and then threw absorbent powder across the lanes. Mr. Jacala describes the powder as “like cat litter but not grainy.” Crews then used street sweepers, he added.

By about 3 p.m., interstates were fully reopened, the California Highway Patrol said.

Jacala said the crash happened during the state’s tomato season, when truckers load tomatoes in Solano County and use Interstate 80 to deliver the fruit to the Bay Area and Sacramento. The state produces more than 90% of the country’s processed tomatoes, follow for the California Tomato Growers Association.

“I’m glad there were no deaths,” Tyhurst Police said, “because that could easily have been a fatality.”

An episode that attracts online food satire: A local newspaper Written that the cars were trying to drive through the “sauce”. One person on Twitter noted that there was “salsa on Interstate 80.” And Andrew G. Haubner, a reporter for KOVR-TV, a CBS affiliate in Sacramento, request on Twitter: “You told your boss you were late for work because you spilled tomatoes on the highway. Do they believe you? “

Officer Tyhurst said that the California Highway Patrol has dealt with tomato spills before in Solano County, but not on this scale. Usually, they are on less-trafficked streets.

He wasn’t sure if other fruits or vegetables could cause such a dangerous condition.

But Mr. Jacala guessed that tomatoes pose a particular danger because they are soft, mushy and slippery.

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