UPDATE 8:00 p.m. Saturday  The Virginia Department of Transportation opened the second northbound lane in the tunnel.

UPDATE: 9:30 a.m. Saturday   The Virginia Department of Transportation reopened the right hand lane of the northbound tunnel.

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Interstate 77 southbound at the East River tunnel reopened to West Virginia traffic at about 10 p.m. Friday night after being closed for seven hours following a truck fire in the northbound tunnel.

(See tunnel damage here.)

A tractor-trailer hauling paper boxes caught on fire at shortly after 3 p.m. Motorists were quickly evacuated from the tunnel. The flames did structural damage to the northbound tunnel on the West Virginia-Virginia line near Bluefield. The tunnel is owned by the State of Virginia, which will be in charge of repairs.

Southbound traffic on a busy Friday night of vacation season was rerouted at Princeton onto U.S. Route 460 and then to Interstate 81 south. The backup was for miles.

There’s usually a major backup northbound on Saturday afternoons during the vacation season from at least Wytheville, Va. to Fancy Gap, Va. on I-77. All of that traffic will have to go somewhere else this Saturday, most expected to go I-81 at Wytheville to U.S. Route 460 and then back over to I-77 at Princeton.



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  • Joel

    Learn to drive truck drivers!

    • Amy

      Truck drivers take a lot of training to be able to drive. It takes months for someone to get their CDL. They also have to pass numerous tests. How long do motorists have to study and prove they can drive? 40 hours.... not even two days.

  • WV Forever

    Wow, Thank goodness no one was killed! Think about all the comforts of Life. without The transportation system, you wouldn't build that house, stock those grocery stores, it's a never ending list of items mankind needs. Bless all the Truckers out there be safe.
    Drive tip # 1- When you pass a truck on interstate, don't ride beside them get the heck on around them!
    Gooo eers!

  • james

    Sorry to see so many negative comments directed against truck drivers.So many people so ready to assign blame with out ever knowing the facts. I am almost certain the driver of the truck that caught fire in the tunnel would do almost anything to have it never happen. It could have just as easily been a car or a pickup. But because of our size and weight accidents become more magnified. I try to stay away from the cars because quiet frankly there's not a confrontation that you are going to win. Fully loaded I weight as much as 26 cars. Imagine getting hit with that all at once. It ain't pretty. I don't want to hit you run you off the road. But sometimes due to the way our interstate system is designed I do have to sometimes delay you while I am getting up to speed. I don't do it on purpose. As some of you think. The latest statistics from the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) 75% of car and truck accidents the car was at fault. That still leaves a lot of room for improvement but don't be so quick to blame the trucker. We can all do with a little more patience and understanding. To most of us driving is our life and livelihood staying safe is how we get to do it longer and better.

    • Shadow

      If you research the internet, you will find that the distance to stop a fully loaded 18-wheeler is 315 feet. Unloaded it can be further. I would say that the average car if today can stop in 150 feet or better. However, the traffic engineers give them the same time to stop. In WV, it is 5 seconds on the 55 MPH lights. Almost no time for driver reaction if you are a trucker but they do it day after day. It is a setup that causes accidents. Forgot to mention, the 5 sec doesn't change if you are going downhill. All in the interest of reducing the time someone must wait for the light to change and the money derived from folks that run the light. It sure isn't Safety. The moral is: Don't stop quickly when you have an 18-wheeler behind you and don't cut in front of them. Safety Engineers, they are NOT..

    • yeager

      Thank you James,When I drove the blame is put on truck driver.People just don't or can't grasp how hard it is.Thank you

  • snoball221

    Most important is no one was killed nor seriously injured. Now for those turkeys who are bashing truckers, you wanna give it up and think long and hard about where those things you don't need come from, they sure don't fall from the sky, or drop in from a drone. It is people like me, yes I am a driver also, who make a great sacrifice each day that bring this stuff to your favorite retailer. Now in the process I am cut off by 4 wheeled fools who don't like their car, either that or they are looking for free insurance money, one finger saluted, cussed at, SBD why cuz I might be going slow on the enter or exit ramp or slow on a turn or up a hill, but I smile and wave just the same. You say we should be limited to right lane only up a hill, when we come up on a slower one than we are it is better we pass them than risk hitting them for it takes to long to slow down to their speed sometimes, and I have family I must go home to after each tour. See you for get we are patents, moms and dads and even grandparents out here, we love our children and miss them dearly, but yet we sacrifice our family time to be trashed by people who don't care about us. Or so it seems. Put yourself in our seat and stay away from your family a month at a time and see how you would feel if someone talked about you like I have just read here! Not all truckers are daredevils out here, the majority of us care and do drive with caution. FYI LOOK up the statistics and you will see that the number one cause of all accidents are in fact you the very ones who criticize us the truck driver. Yep sorry to bust the bubble cars cause more accidents and even injuries to even the trucker than the trucker ever could imagine causing, it is a proven fact. But what do you care if our children have their parents alive or not so long as you can get your greedy mitts on your wants and desires who cares they are just truckers.

  • jfk

    One comment about truckers on the turnpike (I hate to drive btw) a week ago at the second southbound toll a truck cut across 2 lanes of traffic to try to cut me off and attempt to pass another truck and stay in the passing lane I gunned it and barely got passed him as he was waving his hands as if I had done something wrong. They do not own the road and should at ALL times stay in the slow lane going up hills, they pass other trucks and cause all kinds of problems on the highway. PS I know they haul all our stuff but stay in the slow lane for goodness sake.

    • Shadow

      You had to be King of the Road. Why didn't you have the courtesy to let the trucker take his turn at the toll booth? He was there first. You had to GUN IT to show him your anger. You need an Anger Management Class. Don't blame the trucker for your condition.

  • Rebecca

    I was in the left lane and was not able to pass the truck in the tunnel. I was stuck for a few minutes which felt extremly longer. I saw the flames and pieces falling down. All these cars behind me stopped and no place to go. The tunnel maintenance were so quick to get the tunnel evacuated. I started to back out until I was able to get turned around and drove out of the tunnel. Luckily the truck driver got out safely as well as all the drivers thanks to the quick response of the tunnel workers. I heard the loud explosion that shook the tunnel and my car. Once I got out I thank God we were safe. The scariest thing that ive experienced.

  • Christine Gergen

    We were in the left lane and several cars behind the truck that was in the right when traffic started to slow then eventually stop. A couple of cars put their turn signals on to get in left lane. The truck in front of us let one car merge in and the car next to us started to merge in front of us and quickly stopped and put on blinkers. The flames were shooting out...which was incredibly scary. I floored the gas and went past the truck as the tunnel filled with smoke. We got out along with 2 or 3 cars behind us. I read that as people were backing out there was an explosion. We prayed that all got out of there safely.

  • The other guy

    I suggest taking a ride with a truck driver, go on a run near a major city and witness the stupid driving tricks pulled by people driving cars and you may rethink your position/opinion about trucks on the road, unless you see it you will not believe some of it.

  • WVheart

    I just hope everyone made it out safely! I travel to WV on 77 very often. I have seen my share of accidents both coming and going, and I don't point fingers at what vehicles are involved or who caused the accident, BUT hope everyone is safe and make it to their own destination!

  • Frequent driver

    That section of I-77 from the W.Va. - Virginia line to Wythville is a drivers' nightmare. I have been delayed on that 25-mile stretch more times than I can remember...and the delays are long.

  • Aims

    We were on I-77 north just as they began closing the highway. Traffic stopped on 77, and on all detours too. STOPPED. After 2 hours we decided- with many others- to turn around. Drive back to wytheville- having dinner at a great find( log house) about to try again. Hoping traffic is better?!?!?!

  • Mike

    It's usually always a tractor trailer creating problems, closing interstates and being a danger to innocent motorists. I 77 near Clendenin was closed earlier this week when one hit a guard rail and spilled fuel. Happens every day. They're a menace. Almost killed me once when one blew a gasket and oil covered my entire wind shield traveling 70 mph on the interstate.

    • Shadow

      Will you explain to me how the truck driver blew a gasket and sprayed oil on you? I am sure that the trucker was as upset as you were. When I think about it, how close were you to the truck? Another worthless comment.

    • Kathy

      Sir let me tell you something -police like YOU cause truckers to wreck because of your attitude! Have you ever drove a truck weighing 80,000 lbs? Can you stop one on a dime because ppl like you cut them off, slam on breaks in front of them etc. Do the math that you should have learned getting your d/l about how many car links it takes to stop that car you drive then figure the math it takes for a truck. Climb your happy smart ass in a truck but for Gods sake don't drive a big truck, for you would be the 1st to wreck and kill someone but watch what goes on then run your mouth!! These trucks happen to bring your clothes, food, furniture and every part if your everyday life to the stores in which you shop. If you do not like trucks nor truckers STOP going to stores and buying stuff that way YOU will be doing all of us a HUGE favor by staying off the roads.

      • whatamoroon

        Wow. I never knew all truckers were safe and aware all the time. The many people who have been run off the road and KILLED owe you a flipping apology.

      • Kathy

        Mike the word police should have been people... Like you....

    • john doe

      To mike ,how do you think the gas got to the pump, that's in your car,or the food that's on table.all the stuff at Walmart,just didn't land on the shelf ,by the good fairy. And by the way the interstate was designed for cormance not for joy riding. You bet I drive a truck ,and travel that highway five days a week putting up with cracker heads like you

      like you ever day.

      • Passing lane

        And, cracker head truck drivers love to get in the passing lanes going up hill which slows everyone down. All truck drivers do not obey the speed limits, many have passed me going upwards of 70 MPH. All tractor-trailers shouldn't be allowed to go over 50MPH.

        • Reply for truckers

          As for truckers passing other trucks going up hills. If you get caught behind one, it might hold you up for what, 60 seconds? Be patient and leave a few minutes early. Dont forget, they are doing their jobs, your not. Be nice now to those truck drivers. I DRIVE an 18 wheeler, and yes I have other truckers run me off the road. But the percentage of near misses comes from what we call 4 wheelers.

        • Lisia

          Oh don't forget that those car parts that are in your car...where did they come from....or how about those tires.....the seats....the interior....the interior door panels....or poly beads it took to make them.....they were all transported by a truck driver like myself and other drivers to manufacturing facilities where all these things are made and then shipped to another to be put together to make that precious car you drive....oh wait we also haul the materials that make up that manufacturing facility and computers not mention that phone in your hands and that structure you call home....so therefore without truck drivers....you would have nothing.....not even a job....you should be thankful that we truck drivers would sacrifice being with our families just so your ungrateful sarcastic better than thou self can have the luxuries you have.....also start looking at the statistics as they reflect that most accidents are caused by ppl driving 4 wheels than 18.....so start being a little more thankful that we give up our home to live in a box on 18 wheels and our families as well as 3 hot meals a day just so we can bring you the things you want or need to survive....get off your high horse and stop being idiotic.

        • Kevin

          Why don't you get off the road or stop talking and texting and driving. as you can't drive as good as you think you can when you have 2 million accident. free miles in all kinds traffic and all kinds of weather then you can talk to me about how fast i should go or how i should drive till then you keep waving one finger ill keep smiling

      • Dean

        J doe, I agree with your thought about truckers providing a needed business service to consumers. Most are probably careful and safe. But measured by the numbers of accidents caused by trailers, there are drivers who are not. They are the problem.

      • WVDriver

        Seems John Doe needs an anger management class. Hope you don't drive with that attitude.

      • Mike

        Explain the hundreds of tractor trailer accidents that happen every year and what causes them. Careless truck drivers cause them.

        • The other guy

          Hundred of truck accidents?? Based on number of miles traveled and payloads hauled and from doing it for a living a great deal of all accidents whether car or truck are from tire or other mechanical failures, lack of skill by the driver or most of all a lack of common sense/courtesy. Many major accidents are a result of texting or talking on a phone, when one person is careless sometimes many get swept away by the wake of the other drivers mistake.

  • Kat

    3 firefighters treated for smoke inhalation after first 3 fire trucks had to be abandoned in the tunnel when the fire activity increased. 2 firefighters transported to hospital, one for smoke inhalaroln, one for smoke inhalation and a possible broken ankle.

  • Independent View

    Machele McBee
    Thanks to a cool head and quick thinking, you are safe!

  • Machele McBee

    My family and I were in behind the truck in the tunnel. Traffic was stopped but we didn't know why. The next thing I knew the truck was on fire in the right lane I was in the left and stopped. My husband shouted for me to floor it and pass them immediately. We may have been the last vehicle to get through he tunnel. We worried how it would end if we could not get out.

    • Christine Gergen

      So glad you are safe. We also keep thinking about what could have happened. Very scary moments for sure.