Highway Spills May Threaten Your Pasta Night

·3 min read
Image of I-55 covered in Alfredo sauce spill after truck crash
Image of I-55 covered in Alfredo sauce spill after truck crash

Not to be Jay Leno about this, but this week’s national headlines have offered quite the setup for food writers everywhere. When’s the last time you read a sentence like this in The New York Times?

Fist-size tomatoes covered eastbound lanes of the interstate across a distance of about 200 feet, creating a red mass that seemed to be about “two feet deep,” Officer Tyhurst said. He added that he was not being hyperbolic about the depth.

That’s from a story about a traffic accident involving a produce truck in California. On its own, it’s enough of an eye-catching story. But here’s the thing: within 36 hours of the tomato incident, a Tennessee truck spilled its own cargo—a whole bunch of Alfredo sauce.

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Tomato spill in California

The New York Times reports that around 5 a.m. Monday morning on I-80 in Vacaville, California, a truck carrying an estimated 50,000 pounds of tomatoes collided with a car on the road, swerved away, hit another car in the process, and then hit the highway’s center median. All this motion dumped an estimated 150,000 of the truck’s tomatoes onto the roadway—and those tomatoes, in turn, led to a crash involving seven different vehicles.

Thankfully, the worst injury reported by the NYT is that someone was hospitalized with a broken leg; three other people reportedly had only minor injuries. Considering that Officer Jason Tyhurst of the California Highway Patrol describes the slick tomato skins as “like walking on ice,” it’s amazing there weren’t further injuries.

The roads were shut down most of the day, until about 3 p.m. After the California Department of Transportation’s cleanup crews cleared the tomatoes off the roadway with a “scooper like a backhoe,” a kitty-litter-esque substance was sprinkled onto road to absorb the rest of the hazardous tomato goop.

Alfredo spill in Tennessee

“You can smell it!” tweeted Kate Bieri of FOX13 Memphis. While local Memphis CBS affiliate KION-TV reported that police initially did not confirm exactly what kind of substance had spilled from a crashed truck onto I-55 Tuesday afternoon, reporters on the scene were able to confirm that the spill was due to many, many broken jars of Alfredo sauce.

The 18-wheeler carrying the sauce reportedly hit a retaining wall, and judging by photos of the accident, the impact seemingly ripped open the side of the trailer like a tuna can (see photo above). While there are no NYT-level descriptions of the depth of the sauce on the roadway, it’s at least thick enough that tire marks and footprints are visible like upon the driven snow.

As with the California tomato spill, only non-critical injuries resulted from the crash. Crews were working late into the night to clear the spill; as of 10:45pm Tuesday, it wasn’t all cleaned up yet. Presumably there’s lots of shattered glass posing a risk here, too, in addition to the slippery sauce itself.

If you need dinner in a pinch tonight, try making your own tomato sauce or Alfredo sauce. We promise you, homemade is always worth it.