It will be at least until the afternoon before SR 53 at Sundown Way is back open in Dawson County after a truck carrying explosive material overturned there this morning.
The highway has been closed between Dawson Forest Blvd. and Blue Ridge Overlook since shortly after the accident happened, between 5 and 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Fire Chief Danny Thompson explained at a press conference that the material is petroleum-based ammonium nitrate, which when combined with other materials, like fuel oil, can make an explosive, including ANFO. While it is technically not dynamite, it is also not comparable to something like fireworks. Thompson confirmed at a press conference Tuesday morning that they estimated the maximum capacity of 6,000 pounds of the petroleum were on board. Thompson said the container didn't seem to have significant damage, though about five gallons spilled onto the roadway.
However, he stressed that the risk of some kind of explosion at the accident site was very low.
"It requires various elements for it (ammonium-nitrate) to become an explosive," Thompson said. "I think really that's the big takeaway here. It requires several different elements for it to become that explosive. In and of itself, it is not."
The truck was carrying the material for Austin Powder out of Gainesville. Thompson said it was a daily occurrence for hazardous materials to be transported on Georgia roadways.
A number of agencies are on the scene, including Dawson County emergency personnel, the Forsyth County Fire Department's HAZMAT team and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Dawson County authorities said the accident involved the tractor trailer and three vehicles. Four people sustained injuries, however Thompson said two females refused treatment, but two males, including the driver of the truck, were transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, and Thompson said all injuries appeared to be minor. The Georgia State Patrol is handling the accident investigation.
Authorities said no homes are in the evacuation area. There is a shelter in place for some of the nearby subdivisions, and Thompson encouraged residents in the area just stay put. He added they were working with the school system for the children who could not take their usual bus to school because of the accident.