Hurricane Harvey

UPDATE: Arkema Says 2 Trailers Of Compounds Caught Fire

Fire officials say they’re aware of two trailers containing unstable compounds that are on fire at the Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby.

THE LATEST:

Arkema says two trailers of unstable compounds have caught fire at its chemical plant near Houston where it lost power after Harvey.

Arkema executive Richard Rennard also says the company expects its six other trailers with organic peroxides to eventually catch fire. He says the company is checking the air quality as black smoke billows from the plant.

The Environmental Protection Agency also says it’s monitoring for any airborne toxic chemicals.

Arkema says Harvey’s floodwaters engulfed its backup generators and knocked out the refrigeration necessary to keep the containers of organic peroxides from degrading and catching fire. One container caught fire Thursday.

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“Houston has more love than water” says Meyerland Middle School Principal J. Auden Sarabia. 

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Fire officials say they’re aware of one trailer containing unstable compounds that’s on fire at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby that lost power after Harvey.

Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, said fire officials know that one trailer filled with organic peroxides and possibly a second trailer is on fire at the Arkema plant in Crosby. Aerial video shows a towering fire and smoke coming from the plant. The compounds are unstable because the plant lost refrigeration.

A day earlier, one trailer blew up, sending acrid smoke into the area. An area around the plant was evacuated, and Moreno says the department does not plan to expand it.

She added that the department believes that the sudden bursts of flame seen in television footage of the fire came from tires.

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Another fire has broken out at Houston-area chemical plant that lost power after Harvey, sending black smoke into the air.

Aerial video shows a towering fire and smoke coming from the Arkema plant in Crosby on Friday evening. The fire came after a container of organic peroxides exploded and caught fire early Thursday, sending acrid smoke into the air. An executive had said up to eight more containers could burn and explode.

Arkema spokeswoman Janet Smith on Friday evening reiterated statements executives made earlier in the day that the remaining containers of organic peroxides would explode. They say the safest course of action is to simply “let these fires happen and let them burn out.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and local officials said an analysis of the smoke that came from the plant early Thursday showed no reason for alarm. Still, authorities evacuated an area around the plant.

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With flooding still happening in some Houston areas, Mayor Sylvester Turner met with the Federal Emergency Management Agency ‘s Administrator, Brock Long, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, to discuss federal aid to Houston and the region, as well as how that aid will be used.

“This is not FEMA’s recovery,” Long said at a press conference. ” This is the Mayor’s recovery, this is Texas’ recovery and we are here to help all Texans who have been impacted to achieve their goals and to find a new normal.” However, he warned, FEMA’s assistance unfortunately won’t make things the way they were before the storm, but it help in making sure that Texas rebuilds. 

“The goal is to get  a lot of decisions out of D.C., and to start setting up recovery commanding control closer to where you guys have been impact,” Long said, as he announced that he has appointed a special Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for the region, Mike Burn. 

Turner tweeted that it had been a good meeting but reminded that federal aid needs to move fast. 

At the same press conference, the mayor said that “there are tremendous needs all around in the city and in the region” Turner said.  “It’s family by family, person by person my goal is that no one will be left behind”, Turner said. 

As of Friday morning, more than 103,000 individuals and households had been approved for FEMA assistance worth more than $66.4 million. The agency has $3.3 billion left in their budget for this year.

News 88.7’s Al Ortiz got the moment when the Houston Fire Department  and Houston Police Department rescued a mother and her son  at an apartment complex in West Houston.

News 88.7’s Al Ortiz was also around when an elderly woman was being rescued by first responders in West Houston.

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The Astros are back in town for their first home game since Harvey devastated the region. They’ll have a double-header against the New York Mets tomorrow at Minute Maid Park.

The first game is at 1:10pm and the second is scheduled for 7:10pm.

The Astros have donated five-thousand tickets for each game to the mayor’s office, to be distributed to shelters, first responders, and volunteers. Each game will also be preceded by a moment of silence for the people who died as a result of Harvey.

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News 887’s Al Ortiz talks with Patrick Biron, a volunteer rescuer who is helping out residents in west Houston. Biron’s been trying to do evacuations and folks have been eager to stay put. Now that power is out, Biron feels that it’s going to make the situation worse. 

Flooded parking lot at an apartment complex in west Houston.
Rescuers deployed near the Energy Corridor.

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Fires are expected at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby as soon as Friday.
Eight containers of organic peroxides at the  facility are decomposing and expected to combust.
President and CEO Rich Rowe says they don’t expect any devastating explosions or damage outside the plant but that the main risk for the public will be the smoke from the fires.
 
“Smoke from organic peroxide fires can irritate the eyes, nose, lungs. and the smoke may also contain organic peroxide degradation products, including hydrocarbons and various alcohols, which also can irritate the eyes, the skin, respiratory system, etc. it can also cause nausea, drowsiness etc,”   Rowe said.          
 
The executive  said people in the area are urged to avoid breathing any smoke, and should stay inside with windows and doors closed.
 
 
 “Unfortunately, it’s not possible to say exactly how long it’s going to take for this situation to play out,” Rowe added. “There are a number of variables. But based on everything we know, we believe it’s likely the containers could ignite in the next few days.”        
 
A mandatory evacuation remains in place for a one and a half mile radius around the plant.
 
Also, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued new evacuation orders for homes south of I-10, West of Gessner, north of Briar Forest and east of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs.
 
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 Authorities are raising Harvey’s death total toll to 39 almost a week after the storm slammed into the Texas coast.

In Harris County, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Bentley said Thursday night that the office was investigating seven more storm-related deaths.

Harris County has so far accounted for 25 deaths from the storm. Bentley said earlier in the day that their morgue was close to capacity because bodies were piling up from the storm and from other deaths in the fourth-largest city in the U.S.

She said the backlog eased a little Thursday as some funeral homes were able to pick up remains.

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Officials say flood waters are expected to be gone from most of Houston and Harris County by late Friday or early Saturday.

Jeff Lindner, meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District, said Harvey flooded an estimated 136,000 structures in Harris County, or 10 percent of all structures in the county database. He called that a conservative estimate.

Lindner said 70 percent of the county’s land mass, or about 1300 square miles, was submerged by at least 1½ feet of water. The heaviest rainfall recorded in Harris County was 47.4 inches on Clear Creek at Interstate 45 in the southeastern part of the county, near the NASA Johnson Space Center.

He said there has been a very slight fall in the waters of Buffalo Bayou, which flows past downtown Houston into the Houston Ship Channel, but flood waters remain in the residential areas on the margins of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs that control flooding on Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel. Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says they remain full but that their water pools have lowered very slightly.

Lindner said the reservoirs will take three months to fully drain after 35 to 40 inches of rain fell on their watershed.

Zetterstrom says that the Addicks and Barker dams are withstanding their load well.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said on Twitter that  75 percent of all homes in the City of South Houston have been damaged by Harvey. He asked Harris residents to consider donating on Friday.

 

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Gasoline prices rose several cents overnight amid continuing fears of shortages in Texas and other states in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s strike on the Gulf Coast.

The national average for a gallon of regular gas rose in one day from $2.45 Thursday to $2.52 Friday, the American Automobile Association reported .

At least two major pipelines — one that ships gasoline across the southern United States and to New York, and another that flows north to Chicago — have been slowed or stopped because of flooding and damage.

In Dallas, drivers lined up at gas pumps Thursday as some stations ran out of fuel.

One Chevron station in downtown Dallas that sold regular gas for $2.29 a gallon just before the storm was charging $2.99 Thursday. Others charged well over $3, and one downtown Shell station charged $3.97 for a regular gallon of gas.

Analysts are cautioning drivers not to panic as some gas stations run low on gasoline.

If people start hoarding gas, as some have in Texas, “that’s going to make the problem worse, and prices shoot higher and the event will last longer, with more disruption and shortages,” said Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with GasBuddy.com.

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The Texas Department of Public Safety said more than 37,000 homes were heavily damaged and nearly 7,000 were destroyed, figures that did not include the tens of thousands of homes with minor damage. About 325,000 people have already sought federal emergency aid in the wake of Harvey. More than $57 million in individual assistance has already been paid out, FEMA officials said.

Harris County FEMA director Tom Fargione said the agency was looking for ways to house people who lost their homes to Harvey, with 32,000 people reported in shelters across Texas. Some evacuees had begun returning to their homes — the George R. Brown Convention Center, where 10,000 people took shelter, housed 8,000 evacuees late Thursday.

The priority is to get those who weren’t able to return to their homes into some form of temporary housing, Fargione said.

“Right now, nothing is off the table. This is a tremendous disaster in terms of size and scope.”

Gov. Greg Abbott warned Friday in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that it could take years for Texas to “dig out from this catastrophe.” President Donald Trump tweeted that there’s still “so much to do” in Texas’ recovery.

The block-by-block search of tens of thousands of Houston homes that rescuers began Thursday is expected to be completed by Friday. Fire Chief Sam Pena said his department had responded to nearly 16,000 calls since the storm hit Saturday, over 7,600 of them for water rescues.

Elsewhere, the loss of power at a flood-crippled chemical plant set off explosions and a fire, and the city of Beaumont, near the Texas-Louisiana line, lost its public water supply. The remnants of the storm pushed deeper inland, raising the risk of flooding as far north as Kentucky.

 

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Houston firefighters are finishing the first of six areas where they went door-to-door checking for anyone left behind in the Harvey flooding.

Fire Chief Sam Pena says firefighters hope to complete the checks in all six areas on Friday. He did not say whether anyone was found dead or alive.

Deputy Police Chief Larry Satterwhite says police have received 30 reports of missing people since Harvey began and have found 11 of those. He says authorities believe most of the remaining 19 have lost the means to communicate and are either in shelters or otherwise safe. He cautioned not to assume they are dead: “It doesn’t mean the worst.” The death toll from Harvey so far is 32.

Mayor Sylvester Turner says areas on the east and west sides of the city are still dealing with flooding issues, but the rest of Houston is “drying out and drying out well” and traffic is returning to the streets.

Turner says Houston is “turning the corner,” with the number of people decreasing in city emergency shelters. He expects to move people from the Toyota Center downtown to the nearby George R. Brown Convention Center on Friday. The convention center, which once housed 10,000 people at one point, sheltered about 8,000 late Thursday.

The first of the month is when many people who rely on Social Security  payments receive their benefits. Nearly all payments issued by direct deposit will arrive as scheduled.  If your payment is delayed, contact your bank. Meanwhile, the suspension of mail service means that people who rely on paper checks may not receive them.

Recipients who encounter problems receiving their regular benefits can go to an emergency payment center that Social Security has set up at NRG Center. Officials will be on hand to help from 9 a.m. to 4  p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Proper identification will be needed to get payments.

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Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton is warning gas stations not to engage in price gouging. The AG’s Consumer Protection Division says it received more than 500 complaints on Thursday over high fuel prices – mostly in Dallas, where some gas stations have been charging upwards of 6-to-8 dollars a gallon.

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The Houston Independent School District is still tallying the damage to its campuses. Superintendent Richard Carranza says of the nearly 200 schools they’ve been able to get to so far, nearly all of them have some form of water intrusion.

Meanwhile, the start of the school year has been delayed another week. Students are now scheduled to return Monday, the 11th. School principals and central office staff will report to work next Wednesday, with teachers returning for a work day next Friday.

In a special meeting on Thursday, the HISD board approved a number of items related to Harvey, including authorization for the district to receive a one-million-dollar gift from a private donor to help recovery efforts, and a measure that would compensate *hourly workers for the time they missed while schools were closed.

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 Army Reserve Soldiers from Texas and Colorado have rescued more than 38-hundred flood victims, and more than 40 house pets. Soldiers have also delivered 400 people to various shelters, and will continue to support air and ground rescues in the areas affected by Harvey.

 

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