In an incident that probably affected thousands of Washington residents returning from the holiday weekend, both spans of the Delaware Memorial Bridge were shut down for hours Sunday on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

In the bridge’s Twitter feed, a bridge staff member called the hours-long emergency closing a “traffic nightmare to say the least.”

Bridge authorities posted on Twitter that both spans of the bridge, a key East Coast highway link, were closed as the result of a chemical gas leak at a plant in Delaware next to the northbound span.

The closing of the bridge occurred about 5:30 p.m. The reopening of all lanes on the bridge was announced about 11:30 p.m. on the bridge’s Twitter feed.

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Two side-by-side suspension spans cross the Delaware River a few miles southeast of Wilmington, Del. They provide a major highway link on the East Coast, linking Interstate 95 with the New Jersey Turnpike, among other thoroughfares.

After the closing of the bridge, traffic was rerouted to upstream river crossings, according to a tweet from the bridge.

News accounts from Philadelphia said the leak involved ethylene oxide. The gas was described as highly flammable. It was reported on news outlets late Sunday night as fully contained.

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