Texas fertilizer plant blast


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Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 18, 2013 - 01:30am PT

By Regina Dennis

WEST, Texas (Reuters) - Hundreds of people were likely injured in a fiery explosion on Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas, that damaged or destroyed numerous buildings including a school and nursing home, authorities said.

The blast was reported at about 8 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT on Thursday) in West, a town of some 2,700 people about 80 miles south of Dallas and 20 miles north of Waco.

"It's a lot of devastation. I've never seen anything like this," said McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara. "It looks like a war zone with all the debris."

There was no immediate official word on what sparked the explosion as emergency personnel assisted victims and doused the flames.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, D.L. Wilson, told Reuters the blast had probably caused "hundreds of casualties" and damaged many homes. He added that a nearby nursing home had collapsed from the explosion and that people were believed trapped inside.

McNamara said the nursing home and much of the center of town had been evacuated, and that residences near the explosion had been leveled.

The air in town remained thick with smoke more than two hours after the explosion, and the area around the blast site was littered with shards of wood, bricks and glass.

A Reuters reporter observed that a nearby middle school and several homes were severely burned. Dallas television station WFAA reported from helicopters that roughly a three-block area of West appeared to have been destroyed.

More than 100 people were being taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, said vice president of hospital operations David Argueta.

Hillcrest CEO Glenn Robinson told CNN that the hospital was seeing "everything from orthopedic injuries to patients that are experiencing serious blood loss."

Governor Rick Perry issued a statement saying his office had "mobilized state resources to help local authorities" deal with the incident.

A White House official said the Obama administration was aware of the situation and monitoring local and state response through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The explosion came two days before the 20th anniversary of a fire in Waco that engulfed a compound inhabited by David Koresh and his followers in the Branch Davidian sect, ending a siege by federal agents.

Some 82 members of the sect and four federal agents died at Waco.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman, Tim Gaynor and David Bailey; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand)


Stair climber, lost, far away from Poland
Apr 18, 2013 - 01:35am PT
Tragedy. My sympathy to the victims.

Let's not turn this into another politard thread.

Trad climber
Apr 18, 2013 - 02:06am PT
Oh crap, just got off google maps. Looks like there were a lot of people living really close to that plant.
I'm hoping for a better out-come than what I fear.

Edit: Just saw a short phone video. (restate above comment)
Edit: In response to Moosedrools request: (restate above comment)

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Apr 18, 2013 - 10:11am PT
Oh jeez..this is going to be truly shocking. Many first responders appear to be casualties. I hope the best for those in our ST community who may be affected.

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 10:16am PT
Left sidebar of the story is interesting.


It seems to be regularly updated.

Just before I posted it it was twice as long with little details like the HD in an adjacent town staying open 24 hrs for emergency supplies.


Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:08am PT
You never know until after an investigation, but looking at the upkeep of the property and tank roofs it looks somewhat lax, or at least like there wasn't a heavy emphasis on organization, security, or maintenance. That's not necessarily atypical of some rural Ag ops such as grain storage facilities which also go up explosively with some regularity.

I suspect now that they are on the radar, Homeland Security will be putting out security directives for these plants given many like this one allow easy access to a lot of explosive material. The other problem with a lot of these plants is they have to be on rail lines and so ended up being located in town for convenience. Some towns might think twice about that after this blast as there would be less incentive to put a lot of folks and first responders at risk fighting a fire around explosives if the plant wasn't right in town..
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:18am PT
Not saying it is definitely or even probably terrorism but both this fertilizer plant and Boston are right out of the Al Quaeda handbook. And given the divisive state of our country the most effective thing for the perps to do would be remain silent as we americans look and even point at each other. Instead of antagonistically celebrating our diversity we should be looking at our conformity as Americans. Were sitting on a powder keg in this country-just saying maybe it's not the smartest place to be....

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:19am PT
Pretty shocking that it was located so close to town. However, it might be
more correct that town located so close to it which is almost certainly true
in the case of the apartment building. I guess folks in Texas don't have
very long memories or they felt Waco was far enough away from Texas City
that it wasn't contagious. That disaster, also fertilizer, in 1947 is still
the worst with at least 567 dead and more than 5000 injured.

"Sightseeing airplanes flying nearby had their wings shorn off,[4] forcing
them out of the sky. Ten miles away, people in Galveston were forced to
their knees; windows were shattered in Houston, Texas, 40 miles (60 km)
away. People felt the shock 100 miles away in Louisiana." Wiki

Oh, and the date of the Texas City disaster? 16 April 1947

Sportbikeville & Yucca brevifolia
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:24am PT

ATFB knows all too well about the lack of security at these facilities.
DHS has not provided nearly enough data or man hours to address this issue despite their $60,000,000 annual budget.

The chemicals and agents needed for the type of blast seen in this instance is available to ag producers but never stored within transfer zones.
Something is wrong with this picture.

btw, your signature may not be on that $60m check but, you're financing it.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 18, 2013 - 12:38pm PT
Pud, DHS 'knows' about all kinds of things, but breaking up the priority list to the status of something actionable is another deal altogether.

That's a grade school at the bottom center of the photo...
That's a grade school at the bottom center of the photo...
Credit: healyje

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 12:52pm PT
It took about 1 minute to find out that the company produces ammonium nitrate fertilizer and has been around for 55 years.
The process is inherently dangerous.
Looks like they also fill and lease anhydrous ammonia trailers to farmers, probably more of a realistic danger to live next door to.
From the looks of the remains of old foundations on the property it's been in that location all long.

This is a case of a small town growing where it shouldn't have.

The plant was there before most of the rest of the town. For sure the apartments and schools.

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 01:13pm PT
If you have something to bitch about take it up with the NY Post.

Problem with someone to blame in this Texas town is that those that were responsible may be long out of office and recently dead.


Trad climber
Apr 18, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
The plant had a HUGE pressurized tank of Anhydrous Ammonia.

Under normal circumstances this substance is NOT explosive; however, in concentrations over 20%, mixed with oxygen, it may explode.
Given the raging fire, I assume the tanks reached their failure limit, and obviously high concentrations would instantly be created in the atmosphere.

My guess is this is what caused the explosion, rather than ammonium nitrate, which was not mentioned.

Mountain climber
In the middle of the ocean
Apr 18, 2013 - 02:46pm PT
I think it was the cows. They are standing up against the MAN!

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:01pm PT
In the photo there are three Ammonia tankers and a bunch of field size Trailer tanks to the south.

the reason I'm suspecting Ammonium Nitrate manufacture is it looks like there's an acid tank farm right in the middle and storage silos for dry product.

Who knows how old that image is though.

News reports mention a railroad tank car.

Hard to tell for sure from the angle, but it looks like the fire and explosion were in the large round structure that could house a drying operation. It couldn't be used for storing ammonia. The codes and pressure vessels are identical to those for LP gas. The ammonia would be in the long cylindrical pressure vessels.


Social climber
kennewick, wa
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:11pm PT
From teh videos there was a fire first, then it does appear that the tanks (under increasing pressure) blew. Amomnia is very hazardous, I believe IDLH around 20ppm (can't find my book).

Ammonia Nitrate is also an explosive.

This happens when teh EPA is celebrating 25 years of EPCRA, Community Right to know Laws.


I have worked around the most hazardous substances on the face of the earth and can only offer up that people do not realize just how hazardous some of these places are, nor do they understand the shoe string budgets for safety. One of my first jobs was at a KOCH brothers plant , made Sulfuric Acid and it was built in the 40's. I got out of there as fast as I could. It was more dangerous there than the plant where we destroyed WMD's filled with nerve agent.

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:19pm PT
Anhydrous ammonia is almost as bad as chlorine gas. Nasty, nasty stuff!

The really scary thing is how many consulting engineers don't understand basics, like the difference between anhydrous and ammonium hydroxide.

Don't get me started on the dumb things we've seen done with peroxide systems and polymer catalizers.


Trad climber
New England
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:41pm PT
Pretty shocking that it was located so close to town. However, it might be
more correct that town located so close to it which is almost certainly true
in the case of the apartment building.

The was also a nearby nursing home that was affected along with houses. Seems like basic land use and zoning considerations were discounted here.

Apr 18, 2013 - 03:46pm PT
Seems like basic land use and zoning considerations were discounted here.

It's Texas. Here's part of their zoning ordinance.

Sec. 14.01.002 Residential and commercial properties; zoning board; rezoning procedure
(a) Residential and commercial zoning. All real property within the city limits is hereby zoned to be used for residential purposes only, except the following:

(1) All real property heretofore used for commercial purposes;

(2) All real property that is used 50 percent of the time as commercial property shall remain commercial property.

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:49pm PT
Yeah, N Y Post, riiiiiiight!

They just published pictures of the marathon bombing suspects, except,.................... they used the wrong photos and fingered an innocent runner and his coach!
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