Transit system ups service after I-85 collapse

Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for Fulton County late Thursday and urged commuters to remain patient as the safety inspection begins and the bridge assessment continues.

"This is just a unique and unpredictable moment", said Kirk Rich, a principal with Avison Young in Atlanta who also is running for the City Council in the 6th District, in which the collapse occurred.

All Rose Diggs told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she lives less than a mile from the fire site but couldn't get home because of blocked surface streets.

"We do have the fire under control", Atlanta fire spokesman Sergeant Cortez Stafford told the newspaper.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, but Georgia State Patrol told the AJC terrorism is not suspected. State workers will be able to arrive to work by 10 a.m.

Authorities did not know who owned the piping or who had put it under the bridge, Deal said.

Eventually, the incredible temperatures that appear in a conflagration of this magnitude have deteriorated an overpass on the I-85, which collapsed under its weight.

According to Georgia Department of Transportation officials, both northbound and southbound directions will be closed for "the foreseeable future". Fire officials asked drivers in the area to keep their windows closed.

Authorities worked through the night to access the bridge and ensure the risks from the collapse are contained.

The fire on Interstate 86 in Atlanta sent black smoke into the air and briefly caused a fireball before the structure fell in on itself.

The flames ignited in an area where the state stores construction materials and supplies near the overpass, state Department of Transportation chief Russell McMurry said.

Atlanta Police told WGCL the fire burned piles of plastic wiring under the overpass. They said they hope taking their buses off the road will help relieve congestion.

Black smoke could be seen for miles.

"I have a handicap", she said, "and they're saying I have to walk, but it's raining and dark".

Reed said city officials would be working to assess the bridge throughout the night.

If you're anxious about driving into work, or anywhere near the city this weekend, MARTA is offering extended service and is increasing rail services.

Reginald DesRoches, a professor at Georgia Tech, said most structural materials lose strength when subjected to high temperature, meaning the concrete could have been compromised by the heat.

He said it is too early to say how long it will take to fix the highway. But it is clear this is a disaster that will reverberate for weeks if not months.

However, DeKalb County Schools notified 11Alive that their district will not be open Friday. The section of highway is already subject to heavy rush-hour commutes.

  • Larry Hoffman