Huge explosion at fertilizer plant near Waco, TX

Waco, TX.  Where have I heard of that place before?  There’s been a huge explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas, not far from the town of Waco, TX – the 20th anniversary of the raid on which is this coming Friday, April 19. Heckuva coincidence.

Spectacular explosion & fire at a Texas fertilizer plant ... on Twitpic

Image via Jonathan Wald

Witnesses say it sounded like a bomb went off. There are apparently a lot of injuries.

A fire had broken out at the plant earlier and it exploded when firefighters were trying to put it out.

Reportedly, houses were leveled for a five block radius, and they heard the blast at least 45 miles, with some reports saying they either heard of felt it in Dallas, 100 miles away.

No one is talking terrorism, at this point. But sure is an odd weak of coincidences:

Monday – Boston Marathon bombing
Tuesday – Ricin mailings to Senate and Obama
Wednesday – Waco-ish fertilizer explosion

And Monday was Patriot’s Day and Tax Day, and Friday is the 20th anniversary of Waco and it’s the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing where they used fertilizer as the bomb.

Watch this video, below.  The real explosion starts around 25 seconds into it. And the poor kid. Wow.






And this is live video from local TV in Texas:

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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28 Responses to “Huge explosion at fertilizer plant near Waco, TX”

  1. daniela says:

    Things are getting better in the area. Lots of people are pitching in to help!

  2. nannasin smith says:

    it is an odd weak of coincidences.

  3. TOP_616 says:

    BLEVE is right. Very similar to the video below.
    The tragic irony…

  4. Naja pallida says:

    One of the first responders was on the police scanner very early on, yelling for them not to put water on the fire. So unless maybe someone disregarded that, or it was too late…

  5. BeccaM says:

    True, but as Monoceros Forth points out below, that would be a BLEVE explosion, which has different characteristics than ignition of an ammonia/air mixture.

  6. Naja pallida says:

    You give them far too much credit. The TCEQ might as well just be a small basement office in some Halliburton building. The agency is a classic example of how Texas state government is irrevocably malignant with corporate tumors. And since the Commission is all appointed by the governor, you don’t suppose Rick Perry is going to appoint someone who might not share his fascist vision of America?

  7. I think that the pressurized boiling tank surrounded by flame makes it more likely though.

  8. BeccaM says:

    True, but it’s a very narrow range to sustain reaction, in the neighborhood of 15-25% concentration in normal air, if I remember my chemistry classes correctly. Those rocket engines had to maintain a constant flow rate, which is difficult to achieve in uncontained spaces.

  9. I will note something here: Even though they call anhydrous ammonia non-flammable, it can be quite flammable under the right conditions. In the X-15, ammonia was used as rocket fuel:

    4 NH3 + 3 O2 → 2 N2 + 6 H2O

  10. BeccaM says:

    I suppose either of those scenarios might be possible, but there magnitude of the explosion and the bright flash shown in some of the photos would suggest a runaway ammonium nitrate oxidation reaction or something similar. Once AN is hot enough, it just takes off.

    On the other hand, Michio Kaku on CBS this morning described a different scenario where it could be that the water from the fire hoses reacted with anhydrous ammonia:

  11. BeccaM says:

    I keep wanting to yell at people, “Hold your frickin’ smartphone camera sideways!”

  12. Probably. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality consists of three guys with some file cabinets, an old Selectric II in the corner of a tiny office, and permission to drive a rusting Oldsmobile sedan.

  13. Both the Guardian and NPR are saying this morning that it was not an ammonium nitrate explosion but rather an explosion in tanks of pure ammonia under pressure. This is perhaps plausible. Ammonia gas is flammable at certain concentrations and I think can even form explosive mixtures like other flammable gases. This might be a so-called “BLEVE”.

  14. FLL says:

    The local CBS reports (at this link) that this plant “was cited by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2006 for failing to obtain or to qualify for a permit.” If that was in 2006, why wasn’t this plant forced to comply? The Republican-controlled state government of Texas might do more to enforce regulations. Is that asking to much of the Republican state government in Texas?

  15. Yeah, that’d be my guess. Like the PEPCON explosion in Nevada some decades ago, involving ammonium perchlorate very carelessly stored.

  16. Hue-Man says:

    I commented earlier about the Toulouse, France, AZF explosion: The explosion didn’t make news worldwide because it happened on September 21,
    2001. “Thirty one people perished. Numerous others were wounded.” “…a
    reported 50,000 windows broken, with the flying glass shards wounding
    many people, and a reported 2 billion Euros in material damages.”… Before and after picture (with water-filled crater) There were obvious terrorism concerns at the time but the (disputed) consensus was poor maintenance procedures allowing fuel oil contamination of the fertilizer.

  17. libertyordeath0204 says:

    whats the site you found this on cant find it

  18. HolyMoly says:

    I wouldn’t say that I’m jumping to any conclusions, and I didn’t interpret John’s statements as such. I think what at least I’m saying is that foul play IS an angle that should not be ignored. I hope for the best but prepare for the worst outcome (not to say that an accident of this magnitude is the “best” anything, but you know what I mean).

  19. sally ride says:

    april 15 is also Israel memorial day and Mossad is ‘helping’.

  20. HolyMoly says:

    You beat me to it. It very well COULD turn out to be coincidental, and I hope to God that it is. But it’s one heck of a coincidence…like lottery-winning odds here.

    LIke the saying goes, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” It all boils down to tomorrow’s investigation of the scene whether or not there was foul play involved.

  21. Naja pallida says:

    Sadly, with Texas being known for lax safety regulations; the state all-too regularly has chemical plant fires, oil refinery explosions, and so forth. Mostly attributable to corporate malfeasance/negligence, it’s hard to jump to conclusions this early.

  22. Yeah, and how often do they happen after two terrorist attacks during the preferred week for domestic terrorism out of the entire year, just miles from Waco on the eve of the twentieth anniversary? If you’re trying to suggest that this isn’t a bizarre coincidence, I’m sorry, I think I’ve already won this one :)

  23. Roman Berry says:

    It was a fire, John. A fire. Ammonium nitrate and fire do not mix well. And fertilizer, mind you, is also used…as fertilizer. And fertilizer plant fires followed by fertilizer plant explosions, mind you, have happened before.

  24. Well, it’s not the first time a heap of ammonium nitrate has exploded in Texas. I say that not as a light comment, but just to illustrate how dangerous fighting an ammonium nitrate fire is.

  25. Yeah, very strange week. And fertilizer, mind you, which was used as a bomb at OK City.

  26. HolyMoly says:

    I was thinking the same thing as far as this being one heck of a coincidence, and hopefully that’s all it is. The location and date (or near date) was enough to make me wonder. Being a fertilizer plant of all places (OK City bomb was made from fertilizer) was enough to get that sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach. A lot of symbolism if it was intentional, but again, I am hoping that it’s just a terrible accident.

    Here’s the tally for the week:

    Monday — Boston

    Tuesday — Ricin letters

    Wednesday — Waco (but hopefully not)

    If something strange happens tomorrow, I’m staying home on Friday the 19th.

  27. Drew2u says:

    Fertilizer? You mean that stuff some crazies abused, used it to blow up buildings, and now is regulated by the federal government?

    Or Texas: that place where the foreign bitumen shale tarsludge is going to wind up, by the Gulf of Mexico?

  28. macbooker says:

    Check out the review about West Fertilizer left by someone just this week on Google, really creepy…

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