Late Thursday morning, Wisconsin's sole refinery exploded and left
11 people injured—with at least one of them suffering serious injuries.
We reported on the
refinery explosion yesterday when the injury count was at 5. Now, reports from the scene say that nearly
a dozen workers were hurt, and an evacuation order was initially issued
for a 1-mile radius.
According to Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger, the fire following the explosion
was extinguished within 90 minutes of the explosion, but it reignited
and sent large plumes of black smoke into the air. Douglas County issued
an update last night saying that though the fire was out, residents should
stay away from the area for a few more hours.
The evacuation order eventually expanded to include the three miles surrounding
the refinery, as well as any buildings south of the refinery for a 10-mile
corridor. Homes, 3 schools, and a hospital were among the buildings evacuated.
"It Smelled Like Burning Tires"
"It felt like something had hit the house, like a vehicle or a branch
from a tree. ... Our dogs started barking. It was a stressful moment,"
said Julia Johnson, a woman who lives two miles from the refinery and
experienced the explosion firsthand. She initially thought the sonic boom
was a plane crash.
The evacuation order came two hours later, as police went door to door
to tell residents to leave the area.
"It was scary," Kara Tudor, another resident, said. "We
threw our dogs in her car. I put the cats in my car, ... we grabbed our
toothbrushes and just left. ... We were mostly focused on the pets because
it smelled like burning tires outside and we knew that wasn't a good
Superior, a town of 27,000 people, has experienced toxic disasters before.
In 1992, a large load of benzene gas (carried by train) covered the region
in a blue haze, prompting an evacuation of 30,000 people.