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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Photos: Explosion rocks Seabrook area

Smoke from a chemical plant explosion at the American Acryl Plant is seen from Terry S. Singeltary Sr.'s back yard in Bacliff Wednesday. Several north Galveston County cities are under a shelter in place orders.

Shelter in place orders lifted after explosion

Published December 9, 2009
KEMAH — Several north Galveston County communities were under shelter in place orders for more than two hours on Wednesday after a chemical plant explosion at the Bayport port terminal near Seabrook. At one point six communities and two school districts were ordered to shelter in place in the most wide spread chemical emergency order issued in the county in two decades.

Kemah, Clear Lake Shores, San Leon, Bacliff and Bayview lifted their shelter in place orders at about 11 a.m. The Clear Creek and Dickinson school districts also lifted their shelter in place orders.

A shelter in place order for the parts of League City east of Interstate 45 was lifted at about 10:20 a.m., the city spokeswoman said.

Friday's incident prompted the largest chemical emergency order issued in Galveston County since a hydrofluoric acid spill happened at the Marathon refinery in Texas City in 1987. That leak forced more than 4,000 people to be evacuated and eventually led to a coordinated alert system for communities to alert residents of potential dangers.

The explosion happened at about 9 a.m. at the American Acryl chemical plant in the Bayport complex operated by the Port of Houston between Seabrook and La Porte in Harris County. Two people were hurt in the blast and were being treated at Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital and were last reported in good condition, KHOU-TV reported.

Emergency management officials said that an unknown amount of acrylic acid and Toluene were released during the explosion.

Residents in the shelter in place communities were asked to stay indoors and seal their windows and doors and turn off the air conditioning and heating systems.

Schools in those communities were also under the shelter in place order and parents are instructed that their children are safe and that classes are continuing on schedule. The Clear Creek school district had 28 campuses sheltering in place, spokeswoman Janice Scott said.

The Dickinson school district also put all of its campuses east of I-45 under a shelter in place order, spokeswoman Tammy Dowdy said. That order was lifted at about 10:40 a.m.

Two sections of state Highway 146 near the entrance to the Bayport terminal were shut down.

Exposure to acrylic acid can cause severe skin irritation and breathing problems. It can also cause severe eye damage. Toluene can cause breathing problems and minor skin irritations.

Winds were blowing out of the north and northwest at 5 to 13 miles per hour sending any potential hazardous chemicals into Galveston County, officials with the League City office of the National Weather Service said.

League City spokeswoman Kristi Wyatt said residents in that city were complaining of having funny taste in their mouths.

Clear Lake Regional Medical Center in Webster, reported that it did not have any patients admitted who were complaining of breathing problems.

KHOU-TV contributed to this report through its content partnership with The Daily News.

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