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Texas Floods: Chemical Factory Explodes After Backup Generators Fail

A chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, exploded after Hurricane Harvey-related rain and flooding knocked out primary and backup power at the location, according to Arkema Inc., the plant's owner. Arkema and public officials in recent days repeatedly warned residents and emergency workers of the potential for explosions.

According to a statement from Arkema this morning (Thursday, August 31, 2017):

"At approximately 2 a.m. CDT, we were notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) of two explosions and black smoke coming from the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas. Local officials had previously established an evacuation zone in an area 1.5 miles from our plant, based on their assessment of the situation."

Crosby is about 30 miles Northeast of Houston. The town had had about 2,300 residents as of 2010, according to Wikipedia. Arkema and public officials have mutually agreed to let the explosion-related fires burn themselves out.

Hurricane Harvey's heavy rains and associated flooding had swamped the chemical plant in recent days, knocking out primary and backup power systems. Arkema warned that chemicals stored at the plant required constant cooling. Without power, rising temperatures in the plant could trigger an explosion, the company warned multiple times in recent days.

About the Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby, Texas

According to The New York Times:

"The Arkema plant manufactures organic peroxides, which are used in making plastic and other materials. When the chemicals warm, they start to decompose, which creates more heat and can quickly lead to a rapid, explosive reaction. Some organic peroxides also produce flammable vapors as they decompose."

Emergency responders are closely monitoring this morning's explosions. And more explosions could be coming. According to the Arkema statement:

"We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains. Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so."

ChannelE2E continues to monitor the situation.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.