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Mid County, parts of Port Arthur ordered to evacuate; for how long is unknown

The Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management issued a mandatory evacuation of Port Neches, Groves, Nederland, Central Gardens, Beauxart Gardens and the northeast part of Port Arthur at 3:28 p.m. Wednesday due to the danger at TPC Group in Port Neches.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said the evacuation order is in “consideration of a blast area if one of the towers goes into the tank area.”

Branick made the call for the evacuation in talking with engineers who know how to calculate the blast area, with prior experience with this fire and in talking with people in the industry and government, he said.

“It’s a tremendous inconvenience in the back side but a chance we can’t afford to take,” he said.

The evacuation zone

Besides Port Neches, Groves, Nederland, Central Gardens and Beauxart Gardens, the mandatory evacuation affects Port Arthur residents northeast of an area from Sunken Court at Twin City Highway to near St. Catherine School in the 3800 block of Woodrow Drive to the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center.

The County is using the Swift System to notify every individual via telephone through an automated call out as well as through media. Police are not going door to door.

The length of time for the evacuation is up in the air.

“As long as the risk exists,”Branick said. “We don’t know if it’s for tomorrow or five days from now.”

The reason it is difficult to pinpoint how long the evacuation order will be in place is because officials do not have information on the volume of materials burning off and can’t calculate burn rates without this information.

The chemicals involved are butadiene and raffinate.

At approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday, TPC Group Port Neches Operations experienced an explosion involving a processing plant, located at 2102 Spur 136.

TPC Group activated its Emergency Response Plan and requested assistance from Port Neches Fire Department and Huntsman, according to a news statement.

A second explosion was heard more than 12 hours later when a column inside the facility fell. Video sent to media showed a column or tower from the facility launched into the air in flames.

The evacuation order does not include:

  • Those employees of oil terminals, pipelines and oil supply facilities that are essential for and who are actively involved in the transportation and receiving of oil and supplies in Jefferson County refining and petrochemical facilities and such other employees who are deemed essential to the operation of refining and petrochemical facilities by their employer.
  • Those employees of hospitals, trauma centers, nursing homes, convalescent facilities and other healthcare providers who are essential for and who are actively involved in providing medical treatment and/or housing for persons who are ill or inform and who are not evacuated.
  • Those employees of federal, state and local governments, political subdivisions and special purpose districts who are deemed essential by their employer.