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Freeway explosion: Rush-hour motorists face massive traffic

December 14, 2011 |  5:58 pm

Firefighters battle the blaze on the 60 Freeway.
As officials tried to determine when an explosion-damaged section of the 60 Freeway would reopen, rush-hour commuters confronted nightmare traffic conditions Wednesday evening as the effects of the closure rippled across Los Angeles-area freeways.

Traffic was backed up or slowed to a crawl on sections of the 5, 10, 110 and 710 freeways as motorists struggled to make their way around the 60 Freeway in Montebello where the gasoline tanker exploded earlier in the day, officials said. The blast caused structural damage to an overpass of the 60 Freeway.

"All of the other freeways are taking up the slack," California Highway Patrol Officer Krystal Carter said of the evening traffic. "It's bad."

PHOTOS: Fiery crash on the 60 Freeway

The CHP said there was no estimate on when the busy east-west artery would be reopened. It had been shut down between the 710 and 605 freeways. The 60 Freeway connects Los Angeles with the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire.

Witnesses described hearing two explosions after the truck caught fire.

Miguel Osorio, 25, who was helping customers inside a nearby Chevron gas station, said the first bang was loud but not very strong.  Still, it caused him to worry when he saw thick, black smoke bellowing in the sky.

Fearing a sister gas station might be on fire, Osorio called his colleague who worked at the establishment down the street.

“It gave me a good scare,” the Montebello resident said.  “The fire looked like it was coming from that general area.”

Then the intensity from a second explosion caused the floor under his feet to vibrate.

Engineers were still assessing the damage Wednesday evening to try to determine when the section of freeway could reopen.


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Photo: Firefighters battle the blaze on the 60 Freeway.

Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times