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Hazmat situation in Town of Niagara resolved

Niagara County law enforcement and fire personnel Tuesday evening gave an all clear in connection with a hazardous materials situation in a Wegmans parking lot on Military Road in the Town of Niagara.

Military Road and nearby roads had been reopened -- after crews contained the emergency situation created when a tractor-trailer carrying refrigerated hydrogen crashed into a light standard in the store's parking lot.

"The state of emergency has been lifted and the evacuation order has been rescinded. The transfer of liquid from one trailer to another has been completed," said Jonathan F. Schultz, disaster coordinator and director of emergency services for Niagara County.

The crash occurred Monday night and caused hydrogen to leak from the truck.

As a result, authorities evacuated residents from a few homes and ordered other Town of Niagara residents and businesses to shelter in place, if they were within 1,500 feet of the scene in the Wegmans Plaza parking lot.

Schultz estimated about 80 to 100 nearby households and businesses were affected by the state of emergency. No injuries were reported during the evacuation and shelter in place order.

The Niagara Factory Outlet Mall and Military Road shopping corridor were shut down as a result. The Niagara Falls International Airport was also closed as a precaution, Schultz said.

"Thankfully, with all the operations that were held over the past 22 or 23 hours and the extremely dangerous situation that the first responders were operating under, it is great to say that there were no injuries at all," said Schultz.

Niagara Town Supervisor Lee S. Wallace said he was briefed on the situation by Schultz and Niagara Town Police Chief James Suitor.

"I have rescinded the state of emergency about an hour ago," Wallace said Tuesday evening.

"The truck is basically on its way, and the stores will be opening up again at their discretion," Wallace told The Buffalo News.

The Wegmans store on Military Road plans to reopen at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

"The safety of our customers and employees is our first priority, and we appreciate the quick action of emergency crews, who have been working tirelessly during the night and throughout the day to address the hazmat situation in our parking lot," the Wegmans statement said.

Wallace said only a handful of residences near the site had to be evacuated as a safety precaution. Refrigerated hydrogen is both flammable and can cause severe frostbite on contact.

Other residences in the nearby vicinity were under a shelter in place order while crews worked to drain the truck of the volatile liquid.

"There were only actually four homes that were evacuated. The rest of the folks in the general area were told, if you're going to come out, don't stand around or cut your grass and stuff like that. You could leave. We just didn't want them outside, if at all possible," Wallace said.

Uniformed officers went door to door to inform residents, who were also notified via the reverse 911 system.

The shelter in place order applied to homes on Military Road, from Third to Niagara Falls Boulevard; Richmond Avenue; Jane Drive; Carol Court; Tuscarora Road, from Effie to Homestead; and Homestead Avenue, according to authorities.

The tank containing the hydrogen was patched by Tuesday afternoon. By early evening, it was ready to be transported to a facility where the tank could be completely drained.

"The truck that was damaged, I believe, is being transported to Praxair, where they will be draining the rest of the substance out, because it takes some time to do," Wallace said after 7 p.m. Tuesday.

"They didn't want to do it on-site, because it's already taken a toll on the local businesses. But, of course, safety was first. Once they were fairly certain it was safe -- which they are now -- they're moving to a different location to take care of the rest of it," he added.

The driver of the truck carrying the tank was apparently trying to turn around in the Wegmans lot when he misjudged the turn and hit the light standard, breaking off a pipe, causing the tank to leak.





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