Brazil Police Officer Jeff Buckland directs traffic at the intersection of S.R. 59 and U.S. 40 Tuesday. Brazil City Police Chief Mark Loudermilk said accidents on I-70 diverted traffic onto city streets, including a large volume of tractor-trailers. All but a few stoplights in the city flashed yellow or red, and police were forced to direct traffic at several intersections, including the intersection of U.S. 40 and Franklin Street, where Loudermilk was located.
Semis lumbered through town, end to end, like dinosaurs or elephants in a parade while local motorists could do nothing but watch Tuesday afternoon.
The traffic, re-routed from I-70 to U.S. 40 at Putnamville, caused one of the worst jams seen in Brazil in years.
The cause of the interstate diversion was a crash involving a pickup truck and two semis on I-70 at the 32 mile marker. Traffic was stopped due to the semi rollover at the 25 mile marker shortly before dawn Tuesday, as reported in Tuesday's edition of The Brazil Times. That accident required the services of a hazardous materials team. There were no leaks reported, but the semi was hauling sodium chloride, a hazardous, flammable substance. Traffic was slowed or stopped for hours on I-70 on Tuesday.
At about 12:55 p.m., Tuesday, a semi driver, Michel Couvrette, 57, of Montreal, Canada, failed to reduce his speed and drove his rig into the back of a travel trailer being pulled by Paul Edwards, 55, of Mosheim, Tenn., according to an Indiana State Police report. Edwards' pickup truck was then pushed into the rear of a second semi driven by Venory Westmorland, no age or address on the report.
Edwards then veered off into the ditch. All three vehicles were traveling westbound at the time of the crash.
The extent of any injuries was not released.
The travel trailer was destroyed and debris covered the roadway. Traffic was diverted from I-70 at U.S. 231 and S.R. 243 at the time of the accident, 12:55 p.m., until about 5 p.m.
The result was a big city traffic jam in the small town of Brazil.
Richard W. Brush, and his wife, Greta, of Brazil, were on their way to pick up their granddaughter on the other side of town and their grandson in Terre Haute when they saw the traffic jam.
"We couldn't get across U.S. 40," Greta told The Brazil Times on Tuesday. "Almost every light was on flasher. We didn't know what was going on."
"The mayor called me back last night," Richard said Wednesday morning. "I never saw any police. They literally shut the business down in this town."
Another local man said it took two hours to drive from Great Dane on U.S. 40 east to his home on the west side of Brazil.
This editor observed the traffic lights at Wal-Mart and Murphy Street were working Tuesday afternoon. I also saw a police officer directing traffic on South Forest Avenue (S.R. 59) near Forest Park. When traffic couldn't use U.S. 40, drivers searched for alternate routes through town, creating even more problems.
The City of Brazil is a victim of its location,
"No matter what we do, it's a battle we will have to fight whenever I-70 is shut down," Mayor Tom Arthur said Wednesday morning. "The guys did the best they could (on traffic control).
"When U.S. 40 was designed, everyone had one car. Now, families have multiple cars and U.S. 40 just can't handle that. We do our best to handle the impact when I-70 traffic is diverted to U.S. 40."