Explosion at Gas Plant Draws Help From All Over State
Benton County Emergency Management, along with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, Richland Police Department, Richland, Kennewick and Pasco fire departments, Benton County Fire Protection Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6, Franklin County Fire Protection District 3, Walla Walla Fire Protection District 5 and Hanford Fire are participating in the response to the explosion at Williams Northwest Pipeline Gas Plant.
Shrapnel from the explosion punctured a tank with the capacity of 1.25 billion cubic feet of liquid natural gas or 14 million gallons. They anticipate the tank was about half full and contained approximately 7 million gallons. Liquid natural gas poses a personal health risk including nausea and difficulty breathing. It is also a volatile explosive.
A two-mile radius evacuation order was initiated shortly after the explosion. Benton County Sheriff’s deputies and fire personnel went door to door to notify residents and occupants to evacuate due to the danger of explosion. An American Red Cross shelter was opened at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds at 515 W. Orchard, Hermiston Ore. As of 7:30 p.m. 75 people had checked into the shelter, but few were expected to stay overnight.
As of 8:10 p.m. the evacuation zone had been reduced to a one-mile radius. The road closures at Highway 14 and Interstate 82 West to Paterson have been lifted. River restrictions have also been lifted. Rail traffic remains closed.
There were five injuries; one person suffered burn injuries and was transported to a Portland burn center. Four people were transported to local hospitals. There were no life threatening injuries.
KNDO also contributed information to this report