U Street grease spill stalls morning rush
* Contest update: We asked you to submit your best grease spill headline earlier and you came through with some very slick ones (sorry for the bad pun). We've selected a winner, or more precisely, two winners: Stodge for "Grease spill turns U Street into 'Eeewww Street' for morning commute" and atom5's "Summertime, and the Livin' is Greasy." Both appeared on PostLocal earlier today. Thanks to everyone that participated.*
Pools of cooking oil on U Street NW.
11:45 a.m. Update by Mike McPhate:
"Gross." "Manure -ish." "Like a rancid Chinese food restaurant."
Residents and workers along the U Street corridor had creative descriptions for the heady stew of heat, asphalt and kitchen grease that filled the neighborhood early this morning after a truck apparently released its load along the commuter artery.
The going theory is that the truck, performing a regular morning pickup of kitchen grease, sprang a leak around 16th and U streets NW sometime before 6:30 a.m., officials and witnesses said. The truck operator then drove about seven blocks eastbound along U Street, all the while spilling the liquid before going dry around Ninth Street.
Police closed U Street between Ninth and 16th streets and 14th Street between T and V streets through the morning rush. The streets had reopened by late morning, although U remained closed to all but city buses between 14th and 16th. DDOT officials were recommending that drivers travel at a maximum of 10 mph.
It was a tough way to start the day for public works and transportation crew workers who labored under a hot sun to spread sand over a stretch of U Street about 10 football fields long. Trucks would dump the sand. Workers, doing their best to avoid inhaling, would then kick it around.
Dozens of police officers were tasked with diverting traffic at intersections and sidewalks, testing the tempers of commuters already challenged by the stink and soaring temperatures. At least one section of sidewalk was closed after pedestrians began slipping. A police officer said four people had fallen on his watch. WTOP reported that a cyclist tumbled.
"It's very slick," William O. Howland Jr., the director of D.C.'s Department of Public Works, said.
Officials said a second layer of sand was being applied to the roadway after the first proved insufficient to absorb the grease. Traffic would then be allowed to resume to help harden the mixture, after which trucks would scoop up the mess.
The driver of the grease truck, likely belonging to a private company, remains a mystery, Howland said. Officials plan to review security footage along the street for additional clues.
Some residents saw humor in the grease mishap.
"Give it about an hour," said Peter Hahn, 33. "You'll be able to cook eggs and bacon."
Another scorcher of a day today. Temperatures are making their way to the 100 degree mark again (Heat! In the summer! Who knew?). This means we're in for uncomfortable commutes across the region. Here's a roundup from this morning:
11:25 a.m. Update: Here's a link to a Washington Post photo gallery of the U Street oil spill.
11:15 a.m. Update: DDOT has posted its own photos from the oil spill this morning. They are available here.
10:10 a.m. Update: Traffic control officers are on the scene trying to keep things moving.
10:05 a.m. Update: One lane of 14th Street northbound is open. Same rules apply at U Street.
10 a.m. Update: DDOT says 14th Street southbound has reopened, but it's slick out there. Use caution at the U Street intersection.
9:55 a.m. Update: DDOT just tweeted that U Street will reopen soon. offciials expect traffic to help grind the sand into the roadway, but want people to travel at a maximum of 10 mph.
Meanwhile, the Post's Mike McPhate has this report:
A truck transporting a load of kitchen grease apparently sprung a leak around 16th and U streets in Northwest Washington and drove about seven blocks eastbound along U Street before it stopped, said William O. Howland Jr., the director of D.C.'s Department of Public Works. The truck, likely belonging to a private company, remains at large, officials said.
9 A.M. UPDATE:
-- Grease update! The Metrobus lines that travel through U Street are being detoured. The streets are still blocked. And the grease on the road remains, a casual reminder to maybe skip the fries with lunch today.
-- The accident on I-395 South at Duke Street is now just blocking the southbound left lane and right shoulder.
8:40 A.M. UPDATE:
-- There are also slick roads on 7th Street between F and T Street and along U Street, according to a Tweet from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Officials and a District Department of Transportation sand truck are on the scene cleaning up U Street.
8:30 A.M. UPDATE:
-- Grease update! Well, things are actually the same -- U Street is blocked from 9th to 16th streets in Northwest, and 14th Street is also blocked between T and V streets. Clearly alternate routes are in your best interest (at least a few blocks away, because there will be backups due to the closures). Are you seeing anything from your commute? Sound off in the comments below.
-- In non-grease news: An accident on I-395 South at Duke Street is blocking the center lane, right lane and right shoulder.
8:05 A.M. UPDATE:
-- Grease update! Apparently 14th Street is blocked between T and V streets due to hazardous conditions, which is a fancy way of saying there's a grease spill. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the grease might have leaked from a trash truck (from a DDOT Tweet, which also notes they don't know for sure).
8 A.M. UPDATE:
-- Grease spill update! U Street is now closed between 9th and 16th streets in Northwest for the cleanup, according to a Tweet from DDOT. So, yes, that will mean a big inconvenience for drivers and everybody should start planning now for alternate routes and delays.
-- The ramp from I-495 South to Arlington Boulevard has reopened.
7:35 A.M. UPDATE:
-- The grease spill is on U Street from 7th to 16th streets, according to a Tweet from DDOT. According to Alert DC, U Street is blocked between 14th and 15th streets in Northwest.
-- The accident on I-95 North has been cleared up.
-- I-395 North is crowded at the 14th Street Bridge.
(Photos by By Gerald Martineau/ For The Washington Post)
7:15 A.M. UPDATE:
-- Here's an odd alert from the District Department of Transportation's Twitter account: A grease spill on U and T streets in Northwest is creating slick conditions. So drive with caution.
6:55 A.M. UPDATE:
-- I-66 East is pretty backed up at Chain Bridge Road.
-- An accident on I-95 North at Sandy Spring Road could slow northbound traffic.
6:25 A.M. UPDATE:
-- The I-495 South ramp to Arlington Boulevard is still blocked.
-- The roads are fairly quiet otherwise.
-- An accident on I-495 South at Arlington Boulevard is blocking the southbound exit ramp.
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