Tanker crash caused traffic mayhem, headaches

The region’s commuters fought tooth and nail to get home Tuesday following the tanker crash that closed U.S. Highway 101 in both directions during rush hour.

For most, the commute home from Sunnyvale or Mountain View that normally takes an hour stretched to nearly three hours as they inched along the highway, dodged around the crash site and hunted for alternative ways home.

Intel employee Elizabeth Mason left San Jose to pick up her kids at 4:35 p.m., and it took her more than 90 minutes to get to the Woodside Road exit. By then the day care center was closed, and it took several phone calls to find someone who wouldn’t also get stuck in traffic trying to pick up the children.

Those who left work later in the evening didn’t fare much better.

Ted Prodromou left his job at Google at 7 p.m. and was snared in northbound traffic. After exiting Highway 101 at Woodside Road, he inched up El Camino Real and got back on the freeway in San Mateo.

“I got home at 9:30, exhausted and with a headache,” Prodromou said. “I kept rolling down my windows to get fresh air, but the air smelled so bad [like chemicals].”

Chris Neil, a division vice president for Maxim Integrated products in Sunnyvale, left work at 7:45 p.m., and knew something was wrong when he hit traffic a half-hour later.

“I could see the sign up ahead telling everyone to get off the road at Woodside,” Neil said. He trekked up to Interstate Highway 280, but it still took him 2½ hours to make it home to San Francisco.

Throughout the night, the California Highway Patrol worked with local police to control the mayhem. By 6:45 p.m., police were running out of emergency flares — used to close onramps and offramps — and were asking for cones, according to the CHP incident log. A number of cars broke down by the side of the highway, according to those reports.

“One poor guy ran out of gas, and was pushing his car,” Mason said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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