Louisiana’s Governor John Bel Edwards on Thursday asked citizens in three communities to stay inside their homes with the windows and doors shut as a chemical plant caught fire after it was hit by Hurricane Laura, Reuters reported.
Edwards confirmed the via Twitter, tweeting out a warning there was a chemical fire in the “Westlake/Mossbluff/Sulphur area.”
Residents were alerted with emergency alerts text pinging their cellphones in the Lake Charles area with the following message:
“Plant fire: Westlake residents shelter in place, close doors, windows, turn off a/c follow media.”
The fire occurred at Lake Charles, Louisiana, hours after the eye of the deadly Hurricane Laura passed directly over the city. Louisiana State Police stated they were responding to a chlorine leak at a company that makes chemicals along Interstate 10 just west of Lake Charles, which had its area obliterated by the storm along the Gulf Coast.
Images of the fire showed a massive stream of smoke cloud lingering over Lake Charles.
The storm made landfall as a powerful Category 4 hurricane in Louisiana early Thursday with “catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds, and flash flooding,” according to the National Hurricane Center.
A chlorine leak from BioLab near Lake Charles, Louisiana on Thursday morning sparked horrific fires in surrounding refinery facilities. BioLab manufactures trichloroisocyanuric acid, chlorinating granules, and other chemicals used in such household cleaners as Comet bleach scrub and chlorine powder for swimming pools, CBS reported.
Both chemicals trichloroisocyanuric acid and chlorine are potentially toxic to humans and animals if ingested or inhaled. Chlorine gas, which can appear in the air as a greenish-yellow cloud, was used as a chemical weapon in World War 1. It is a known potent irritant to the respiratory system and eyes.
Storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski tweeted a photograph of a plume across the highway. “911 is aware they are overwhelmed,” he wrote. Chlorine poses a major health hazard, adding another layer of danger for residents who were unable to evacuate.
— Jeff Piotrowski (@Jeff_Piotrowski) August 27, 2020
Photos out of Lousiana showed damages to homes and businesses in Lake Charles and other communities on the Louisiana-Texas border utterly destroyed by the storm, and relentless winds. Even skyscrapers in Lake Charles have had their windows completely blown out. Emergency responders were reportedly forced to wait hours before they were able to check the extent of the damage done by the storm, NBC reported.
Additionally, utility companies reported downed power lines that affected at least 595,000 customers in Louisiana and another 247,000 in Texas who were without power. Outages have also now spread to neighboring states including Arkansas and Mississippi, with over 52,000 reportedly out of power in Arkansas and more than 10,000 out in Mississippi according to Accuweather.
Nine counties in Texas and Louisiana, including major jurisdictions, have issued mandatory evacuations and are setting up emergency storm shelters for those that can’t escape. More than 385,000 people in Texas alone are being asked to get out of the way of a dangerous storm. Louisiana leaders called for those who did not do so to write their names and other identifying information on pieces of paper and place them in Ziploc bags to keep in their pockets, the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
The city of Sulphur stated in a Facebook post it was “issuing a shelter in place until further notice” because of the dangerous cloud created by the chemicals.
This recent chemical plant accident just adds to the worries for those residents that chose to stand behind and stay in their homes.