Monday, April 16, 2012

The Texas City Disaster...!

I have seen first hand the remnants of the explosion that took place so long ago.

The only good thing to ever come from this disaster, was a rash of updated and much needed safety rules. The rules in place at the time were inadequate and ignored.

Apr 16, 1947:
Texas City explodes

At 9:12 a.m. in Texas City's port on Galveston Bay, a fire aboard the French freighter Grandcamp ignites ammonium nitrate and other explosive materials in the ship's hold, causing a massive blast that destroys much of the city and takes nearly 600 lives.

The port of Texas City, a small industrial city with a population of about 18,000, was teaming with chemical plants and oil refineries that provided steady, good-paying jobs for much of the town. In the industrial sector, minor accidents and chemical fires were rather commonplace, and many stood around the port casually watching the reddish orange blaze that broke out on the Grandcamp early on a Wednesday morning. Twenty-seven members of the Texas City Volunteer Fire Department were called out to douse the flames, but the ship was so hot that the water from their fire hoses was instantly vaporized.

At 12 minutes past nine, the fire caught the freighter's stores of ammonium nitrate, a compound used to make dynamite, and Texas City exploded. Wood-frame houses in the city were flattened, additional blasts were triggered at nearby chemical plants, and fires broke out across the city. The mushroom cloud from the blast rose 2,000 feet, and fragments of the Grandcamp were hurled thousands of feet into the air, landing on buildings and people. The ship's anchor, weighing 1.5 tons, was flung two miles and embedded 10 feet into the ground at the Pan American refinery. The explosion was heard as far as 150 miles away.

Devastating fires burned for days, and on April 17 the freighter High Flyer, also loaded with nitrates, exploded, further devastating the port and causing a new string of explosions at nearby plants. Fortunately, most of Texas City's population had been evacuated by then, and the city's losses were primarily material. By late in the day on April 18, emergency crews had the situation under control. Some eyewitnesses said the scene was worse than anything they had seen in Europe during World War II. The Grandcamp explosion was the most devastating industrial accident in U.S. history, with 600 people killed and more than 3,000 wounded.

After watching the massive damage caused by tornadoes around the country this weekend, I was reminded of this early terrible disaster. It's one of those things we never like to talk about, but in studying them we can find ways to help prepare for them and lessen the loss of life! After all, that's the important thing. Things can be replaced, but loss of life...that is another story!

We better have coffee in the kitchen this morning. Looks like the remnants of the storm system are still hanging around!


Sixbears said...

Most of our fire regulations came about due to horrible accidents.

Texas City was a bad one. As a former Firefighter, I was aware of the disaster.

Most people have no idea what hazards come into their harbors, are transported by rail, or travel the highways. Be thankful someone is enforcing the safety regs.

linda m said...

Very interesting article. Coffee indoors sounds good as the remnants of the storm are here also.

Ben in Texas said...

Having lived in that area I been to Texas City and seen that anchor that was thrown. It's huge!!

Of course once you see how close those plants are together it's pretty amazing they haven't had another event like that over the years.

BBC said...

Ammonium nitrate is mean stuff, wouldn't mind having a bunch of it myself.

Mostly what we get in this harbor is crude oil tankers for repairs or waiting for a berth at refineries further into the sound.

JOJO said...

I had never heard that story. Galveston has had some terrible things happen there. And yet it is such a beautiful place.

No time for coffee this morning eye appt. at 8. So have one for me OK

HermitJim said...

Hey Sixbears...
It's terrible that we have to learn some of these lessons the hard way!

Thanks for dropping by today!

Hey Linda...
Guess the edges of the storm are going to stick around for a day or two.

At east we still have a kitchen to sit in, right?

Be safe, and have a nice day! Thanks for coming by this morning.

Hey Ben...
That's part of what concerns me the most about this area. All those petro-chemical plants and refineries being so close together!

That anchor is big, isn't it?

Thanks, buddy, for coming over today!

Hey BBC...
I don't think I want any of it around my house!

Thanks for the visit today!

Hey JoJo...
Sure has had it's share of bad things happening on the coast! Part of the danger of living near a port, I guess!

Good luck on the eye visit! Thanks, sweetie, for coming over this morning!