IRATE drivers abandoned their vehicles after getting stuck in huge tailbacks on the M56 on Tuesday night.
After a tanker carrying a potentially hazardous chemical crossed the central reservation of the motorway and overturned at 2pm, the eastbound carriageway was shut and westbound lanes quickly ground to a halt.
The westbound stretch from Junction 12 to Junction 14 only fully reopened at 12.30am on Wednesday, while eastbound lanes were all open at 11pm on Tuesday.
As drivers desperately sought alternative routes home, surrounding roads including the A5117, A56, M53, A41 and A55 also experienced jams.
The Highways Agency and police warned drivers to avoid the area and slip roads were closed at Junctions 14, 15 and 16.
Firefighters secured the leak from the tanker, which was carrying aluminium sulphate and only a small amount escaped, causing no harm to the public. Much of the delay arose from the lengthy process of safely decanting the chemical into another tanker.
The tanker came to a stop on the westbound carriageway between Junction 14 in Hapsford and Junction 15 near Stoak.
Fire engines from Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Winsford and Warrington all attended as well as the hazardous materials unit and the environmental protection unit.
An emergency response team from Veolia also attended to help clean up the scene.
Firefighters and paramedics helped to free the 36-year-old driver of the tanker before he was taken by air ambulance to the specialist trauma centre at Aintree University Hospital in Merseyside with crush injuries to his right side.
Fire crews provided informal help and support to people stranded in their vehicles and delivered news of the delays with police.
Deputy Chief Constable Helen King said: “This collision had a significant impact on the road network and we would like to thank drivers for the patience they have shown.
“Cheshire police – working alongside officials from the Highways Agency – worked hard to clear the backlog of traffic and minimise the serious disruption to road users.”
Any witnesses to the collision are advised to call Cheshire police on 101.
Laura Taylor, 22, from Northwich, is a writer at realbuzz.com in Chester who got stuck in traffic for more than three hours on her way home from work.
She said: “I was stuck outside my office for a good 45 minutes.
“It was completely jammed for about four hours on the dual carriageway that leads to the slip road onto Tarvin road.
“People were getting out of their cars to walk to the front of the queue to see what was happening and there were loads of beeping horns and getting angry.
“Most people just looked bored and fed up. I even saw the lady in front of me close her eyes for a good 10 minutes – most of us in the queue were tired people wanting to get home after a long day at work.
“The roads around Tarvin roundabout were at a complete standstill. My boyfriend was keeping me updated about the roads that were blocked and we were trying to find another way to go but there was no other option because everywhere was completely blocked.
“There were no police around where I was stuck, so we had no idea how long we needed to wait for. After I’d been stuck there for a good four hours, people started driving down the outside lane and cutting into the queue, which was really annoying.
“I was stuck from 5.30pm-8.45pm.”