Lightning Strike Results in Banks of Foam on Tennessee Highway

August 7, 2007

Temperatures were headed into the 90s, but what appeared to be snow lined sections of a busy highway in East Tennessee last week.

On closer inspection, the snow turned out to be foam – fire retardant foam, like the kind found in fire extinguishers – and the apparent culprit was an Aug. 2 lightning strike at the McGhee Tyson Airport.

“We think lightning hit one of the hangars and caused the foam canisters to discharge,” said Becky Huckaby, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority. “With the wind and the rain, it ended up in the drain system and got into the water.”

Contact with water makes the foam expand.

“So that’s why it’s all over the other side of Alcoa Highway,” Huckaby said. It was “growing” for a while and the moist air and fog Friday morning kept it from dissipating.

“There’s no environmental risk,” Huckaby said, but traffic had backed up on the highway as people tried to figure out why there was snow in the road.

Information from: The Daily Times,

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