Louisiana Department of Transportation officials now say it will be at least two weeks before Interstate-10 is reopened between Lafayette and Baton Rouge.
A 55-mile stretch of the highway was closed on Thursday, Nov. 15, after a natural gas fire broke out as a crew was drilling a new well. The fire, which was still burning as of Tuesday, Nov. 20, is about 100 yards from the interstate.
But Louisiana State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Markus Smith said if traffic were allowed back on the highway and the fire went out on its own it would create a potentially explosive situation.
“Because of the way the gas and some of the other elements that are mixed with it the gas will float and settle along the interstate route and this particular free-form natural gas if very, very volatile – it’s highly explosive and something as minor as static electricity can ignite it,” Smith said.
“So, if the fire goes out and we have that gas settle along the interstate route and a vehicle passes down the interstate, they can potentially reignite the fire and cause another explosion like we experienced on Thursday.”
Traffic is being detoured north to U.S. Highway 190 on both ends of the shut down, but state officials are asking truckers to use Interstate 20 if possible.
The closure comes at the heaviest travel time of the year, and when you throw in two big regional football games in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the loss of I-10 will be putting a lot of pressure on other state highways.