What Happens When 150K Tomatoes Spill on a Highway?

'A gooey concoction of watery tomato juice, oil, and dirt'
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2022 4:31 PM CDT
Tomato Spill Creates Mega Mess on California Highway
In this photo provided by the California Highway Patrol is the scene where a truck hauling a load of the tomatoes crashed after a collision near Vacaville, Calif., Aug. 29, 2022. The load spilled across several lanes of Highway 80 in Northern California.   (California Highway Patrol via AP)

A major tomato spill caused a colossal mess and spoiled the Monday morning commute on I-80 near Vacaville, California. According to the New York Times, it’s not unusual to see a few spilled tomatoes along the winding roads in Solano County, but to have approximately 150,000 of them covering 200 feet of highway created an unprecedented and unusually hazardous situation. The incident started around 5am when a westbound rig hauling a loaded tomato trailer collided with two other vehicles and careened into the median, striking a concrete barrier and spilling its load into eastbound lanes.

Given the early hour, drivers didn’t see the tomatoes and drove over them, "creating a gooey concoction of watery tomato juice, oil, and dirt," which Highway Patrol officer Jason Tyhurst compared to "walking on ice." The slurry was so thick that one car got stuck and caused a four-car accident, which together with the mess of tomatoes led police to close nearly all lanes in both directions. It took cleanup crews most of the morning to clean up the mess and get traffic moving, and all lanes were not reopened until 3pm.

Including the original wreck, seven vehicles were damaged in total. The truck driver and several motorists were sent to the hospital for treatment, including one with a broken leg, but Officer Tyhurst said it's lucky nobody was killed. The sheer scale of the mess and the hours-long delay provoked some social media humor, per KTVU, including an Instagram commenter who wrote, "I’m stuck in traffic. Y’all go ahead and I’ll ketchup." Local CBS Sacramento reporter Andrew Haubner tweeted, "You tell your boss you’re late for work because of a tomato spill on the highway. Do they believe you?" (Read more tomatoes stories.)

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