Map showing the location of the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, which was crippled by floodwaters from Hurrican Harvey and experienced explosions on 31 August 2017. Graphic: Maps4News / The Washington Post

By Alex Horton and Mark Berman
31 August 2017

CROSBY, Texas (The Washington Post) – The remnants of Hurricane Harvey carried its wrath up the Mississippi Delta on Thursday, but not before hammering the Gulf Coast with more punishing cloudbursts and growing threats that included blasts and “black smoke” at a crippled chemical plant and the collapse of the drinking water system in a Texas city.

While local officials described the blasts early Thursday at the plant in Crosby as “chemical reactions” and not “massive explosions,” federal authorities used dire language to describe the impact of the fumes from the plant.

The chemical plume in Crosby is “incredibly dangerous,” William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at a briefing Thursday morning. But the Harris County sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, claimed whatever fumes were released were “not anything toxic” — raising baffling questions about the level of danger even as authorities sealed off surrounding areas and imposed a no-fly zone over the plant. […]

In Crosby, on the northeast outskirts of Houston, two blasts rocked a chemical plant left without power by floodwaters, the facility’s French operators said, citing Harris County officials. “We were notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center of two explosions and black smoke coming from the” plant, said a statement by the company, Arkema.

The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office reported “a series of chemical reactions” and “intermittent smoke” at the facility; a county official said there weren’t “massive explosions,” and instead referred to the reactions as “pops” followed by fire.

Still, the operators Arkema warned that more blasts could come. “A threat of additional explosion remains,” said the statement. [more]

Blasts, ‘chemical reactions’ rock storm-crippled chemical plant in Texas as Harvey flooding persists

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