Monday, a mile-long train carrying crude oil derailed near Casselton, ND, sending a fireball skyrocketing and plumes of black smoke filling the air. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the explosion, but concern over toxic fumes from the smoke has prompted authorities to call for an evacuation of the town.
As darkness fell, the fire was still so intense that investigators couldn’t get close enough to count the number of cars ablaze, but an estimate put that number at 10. With temperatures below zero, the heat radiating from the blaze could be felt at least half a mile away.
Hannah Linnard, 13, said she was in the bedroom of her friend’s house about half a mile from the derailment, wrapping late Christmas presents.
“I looked out the window and all of a sudden the train car tipped over and the whole thing was engulfed in flames and it just exploded. The oil car tipped over onto the grain car,” she said. Hannah said she could feel the warmth even inside the house. – Huffington Post, Train Derailment Causes Fiery Destruction In Casselton, ND, Dave Koplack, 12/30/13, 9:54PM EST
The North Dakota Department of Health warned that exposure to the burning oil could cause a variety of symptoms including: shortness of breath, coughing and itching and watery eyes. People suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema in the vicinity were urged to minimize outdoor activity.
Ed McConnell said early Tuesday that most residents heeded the recommendation to evacuate their homes to avoid the strong winds predicted to shift blowing potentially hazardous smoke toward the town overnight. With forecasts predicting one of the coldest nights of the year, residents were urged to relocate to a shelter at Discovery Middle School in Fargo, about 25 miles away, rather than sleep in their cars.
The rail tracks run straight through the middle of Casselton, a town of 2,400 people about 25 miles west of Fargo. McConnell estimated that dozens of people could have been killed if the derailment had happened within city limits. ABC News, Mayor: ND Town Dodged a Bullet in Crude Explosion, Dave Kolpack, 12/31/2013 (AP)
According to Oil & Gas Journal statistics, North Dakota produced 242,486,000 barrels of oil in 2012, and a good portion of the production is transported by rail. United States Crude Oil Production By State – Annual, PennEnergy Research. The number of crude oil carloads has seen a dramatic increase since 2009 as activity in the Bakken continues.
- Officials urging evacuation near ND derailment (sfgate.com)
- Weather shift near ND derailment worries officials (sacbee.com)
- Train carrying crude oil derails in North Dakota (globalnews.ca)
- Mile-long train hauling crude oil derails, explodes (usnews.nbcnews.com)