The Harris County Emergency Operations Center reported two explosions and black smoke early Thursday from a flooded Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, about 25 miles northeast of Houston, the company said in a news release. After the explosions, at about 2 a.m., Harris County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to keep people away from the area; one was taken to the hospital after driving through a plume of smoke and nine others drove themselves to the hospital. The fumes are not expected to be life-threatening, sheriff's department spokesman Jason Spencer told the Houston Chronicle, citing the county fire marshal.
On Wednesday, Arkema's North American chief executive, Rich Rowe, warned that since the main power and backup generators had failed due to flooding at the plant from Super Storm Harvey, tanks of volatile organic peroxides were heating up and "there is no way to prevent an explosion or fire." Harris County authorities ordered an evacuation in a 1.5-mile radius around the Arkema facility. "Based on very early information, residents in nearby area should just shelter in place for the moment," Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted at about 5 a.m., adding that he and Spencer were on their way to the plant.
In a worst-case scenario Arkema submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2014, a chemical release at the Arkema facility could affect 1.1 million people over a 23-mile area. On Wednesday, at least one Crosby resident, Stanley J. Roberts Sr., was not impressed with the amount of information Arkema or local authorities were sharing with the community. You can watch his interview with The Associated Press below. Peter Weber