Northern California's skies were clear on Monday, but drivers faced a messy morning commute nevertheless: A highway collision caused several lanes of I-80 to be covered in tomatoes, which soon became tomato jam. Read on to find out what happened, how long it took to clean up the mess, and how social media reacted.
Truck Hit Center Divider
The massive spill happened Monday morning around 5 a.m. when a truck hit a center divider on I-80 in between San Francisco and Sacramento. KTVU reported that the accident happened near Vacaville, spilling tomatoes on both sides of the freeway. It blocked lanes and majorly slowed traffic. "This is a huge mess, obviously," KTVY's reporter observed. Keep reading to see the video.
150,000 Tomatoes Spilled
NBC Bay Area reported that the smash-up started when the tomato-toting truck collided with another vehicle and lost control before hitting the center divider. Four cars trying to drive through the spilled tomatoes skidded and crashed into each other.
All in all, nearly 150,000 tomatoes—about 50,000 pounds—ended up on the highway. "People don't realize how slippery the juice and the tomato skins are," a CHP officer told USA TODAY. "Once they hit the asphalt, it's like ice."
Minor Injuries Reported
Seven cars were ultimately involved in the crash—three on the eastbound lanes, including the truck, and four on the westbound side. Some injuries resulted: Three people, including the driver of the truck, suffered minor injuries, and one person was hospitalized with a broken leg, the California Highway Patrol said.
Multi-Step Cleanup Needed
It took several hours for workers to clear and reopen all lanes of the highway, which was mostly back to normal around noon. The New York Times reported that maintenance crews used a scooper, similar to a backhoe, to clean up the mess, then dropped absorbent powder, like"kitty litter but not as grainy," which was picked up by street sweepers.
Tomato spills are usually not so catastrophic—usually, only individual tomatoes fall out of trucks during transport. This is the height of tomato season, and growers in the state produce 2 billion pounds a week, the California Tomato Growers Association says. Trucks are left uncovered to keep the crop from being steamed during transport.
Social Media Reacts
Social media commenters had some fun with the news.
"Was the driver sauced?" asked @mberger55 on Twitter.
"Drivers will ketchup with their party later. none will get canned," tweeted @deseriesancho.
"You tell your boss you're late for work because of a tomato spill on the highway. Do they believe you?" tweeted Andrew G. Haubner, a reporter for KOVR-TV.
TMX contributed to this report.