The Woodward News

Local News

April 21, 2013

Some residents allowed back home after Texas blast

(Continued)

Woodward, Okla. —

Tom and Tiffanie Juntunen, who were among the first responders to the blast, wanted to grab a few essentials before continuing to spend the night with friends.

"There's a boil order, utilities could be sketchy, better to hit the road," said Tom Juntunen, a 33-year-old construction worker.

During a town hall meeting Saturday, Mayor Tommy Muska apologized for failing to communicate with residents, telling them he had been focused on technical aspects of the situation.

He said the damage northwest of the site is the worst. "When you see this place you will know a miracle happened," Muska told the town hall crowd.

Students from a school near the plant that was heavily damaged by the blast will finish their year in a nearby town at a facility repainted in their school colors, red and black.

Earlier Saturday, at a hotel where evacuees huddled, paramedic and town spokesman Bryce Reed told residents that small tanks were leaking and had triggered fires in one part of town. He said the fires were small and were contained, and didn't cause further injuries.

"The whole place is still on fire, smoldering, all that kind of stuff. It could spark up," Reed said. But, he cautioned, "There isn't really enough structure left to light up and burn."

Reed described dozens of portable, white tanks at the site that are typically filled with anhydrous ammonia from larger storage tanks for when farmers request them. The tanks get weak when they are exposed to fire and bleed, he said.

The tanks are attached to plows pulled by tractors and feed streams of the chemical into the ground as the plow passes to fertilize. Reed said they resemble large, horizontal propane tanks.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said Saturday night that there's no sign of criminal activity in the explosion. Kistner said four tanks at the site that contain ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia would be removed to safeguard workers, but he stressed to reporters there was no danger to citizens.

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