West, Texas: Conditions Favorable for Cleanup Efforts

By Courtney Spamer, Meteorologist
April 20, 2013; 5:10 AM ET
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This aerial photo shows a view of homes on the North side of the fertilizer plant explosion site Thursday, April 18, 2013, in Near West, Texas. A massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. killed at least 30 people and injured more than 160. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Update as of 7:42 a.m. CDT Thursday: Conditions will remain dry through the weekend. It is not expected that weather will hamper the cleanup effort.

Update as of 2:40 p.m. CDT Thursday: The fire is under control, but still smoldering, Michael Honeycutt Director of Toxicology with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said.

Honeycutt said, "There are air quality monitors in place at the edge of the evacuated area. The preliminary results are, the air may contain levels of ammonia that are irritating but they are not of a health concern."

Update as of 9:50 a.m. CDT Thursday: Gusts continue to exceed 20 miles per hour, with a peak gust of 33 miles per hour at 6 a.m. CDT.

Update as of 7:30 a.m. CDT Thursday: Heavy rain was sweeping through the area, and winds have shifted to the northwest averaging 15 to 25 mph with gusts between 30 and 45 mph.

Update as of 6:50 a.m. CDT Thursday: Thunderstorms moving through the area may bring beneficial moisture to the blaze; however, winds behind the front will continue to be problematic for firefighters.

The fertilizer plant is located in the town of West, Texas, near Waco. The explosion of the plant shook the ground and leveled homes and businesses some distance away from the incident Wednesday night.

With the winds gusting in the wake of a cold front that has been bringing severe weather across the center of the country, firefighters may face some challenges.

The winds Wednesday night and Thursday made the fire following the explosion more difficult to contain.

Winds from the north and northwest averaging 15 to 30 mph gusted throughout afternoon, before diminishing Thursday night.

The wind direction will remain from the north and northwest through Friday but could swing to the south and southeast by Saturday.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, "Some south-southeastward drift of any remaining fumes and smoke will occur Friday. However, with less humid air and the atmosphere well-mixed, it will be enough to disperse the odor during the day, beyond a few miles of the incident."

Canadian air had settled over the region Friday. Temperatures will dip into the 30s at night.

"Light winds are forecast over the area Friday night into Saturday morning and could allow a temperature inversion to trap any odor in the vicinity," Sosnowski added.

A gradual warming trend is forecast for the weekend in the area.

According to USA Today, Mayor Tommy Muska said in an interview, at least 30 people were killed and more than 160 were injured.

It was also reported that at least 75 homes and businesses were damaged, several of which were leveled.


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