Suspicious object temporarily shuts down Highway 99

A suspicious object on the shoulder of northbound Highway 99 near Atwater forced the California Highway Patrol to shut down traffic for a little more than an hour Thursday.

The CHP received reports of a suspicious package just before 5 p.m. Thursday on the shoulder of the northbound traffic lane near the Applegate Road exit, Officer Moises Onsurez said.

Law enforcement officials initially thought the object could be a pipe bomb. As a result the CHP, with help from the state Department of Transportation and Atwater police, diverted traffic onto Applegate Road.

The Merced Police Department Bomb Unit was dispatched to the scene. Officers determined the suspicious object was a storage container for vehicle registration papers, not an explosive device.

Traffic was opened up on northbound Highway 99 around 6:30 p.m., according to Onsurez.