A major crash involving 15 vehicles near Modesto City-County Airport forced a mile-long stretch of Mitchell Road to close for several hours on Wednesday morning.
At about 5 a.m., Modesto Fire Department and California Highway Patrol responded to what was first reported as a 10-vehicle crash. The Fire Department initially treated it as a “multiple casualty incident” but downgraded this upon learning that all injuries appeared to be minor.
The number of vehicles involved was also determined to be higher than first reported, including three big rig trucks.
Somewhere between 100 and 150 gallons of diesel was spilled onto the roadway. The spill was contained to the drainage area near the road and did not make its way into the Tuolumne River, according to CHP. The cleanup was handled by the Department of Environmental Resources.
The cause of the crash was determined to be dense fog. Visibility at near-zero forced several vehicles to either come to a complete stop or drive at very low speeds, said CHP.
Witnesses described the conditions as “near blackout,” according to Officer Thomas Olsen. The details of the crashes were unclear, but it appeared as though one crash led to a chain reaction of crashes.
“When we have a crash that’s this complex, we’re just going to try to piece this together as a department,” said Olsen.
Both sides of Mitchell Road between Finch Road and East Hatch Road were closed between 5 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. At about 9:30 a.m., CHP opened up the northbound side of Mitchell Road. CHP estimated that both sides would open back up by 11 a.m.
Mitchell Road is a major artery for commerce and industry. The stretch between Finch and Hatch includes a bridge across the Tuolumne River.
Drivers were asked to consider alternate routes as traffic expanded from the point of the crash. Alternate routes across the river included the Santa Fe Avenue Bridge and the three bridges near downtown.