IA Town Evacs after Chem Blast

Friday, February 21, 2014 @ 04:02 PM gHale

Fertilizer storage is remaining top of the news after an explosion and fire at a Northwood, IA, facility forced the evacuation of 2,000 residents for most of a day.

The cause of an explosion Thursday morning at a Northwood AG Products fertilizer storage facility remains under investigation, said Worth County Emergency Management Director Ray Huftalin.

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The 7:30 a.m. explosion and subsequent fire at the facility, which contains sulfuric acid, near the city’s airport forced the evacuation of Northwood’s approximately 2,000 residents.

Residents received the all-clear to return home about 4 p.m. U.S. Highway 65, which officials closed keep people from entering the community, re-opened at 3:15 p.m. Thursday.

Considering the number of people involved, the evacuation went well, Huftalin said.

Four Northwood residents ended up treated at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa Thursday morning following the fire after traveling to the hospital by private vehicles.

The hospital went on alert for the possibility of more people needing treatment, a hospital spokeswoman said.

General symptoms of exposure to sulfuric acid are vomiting, nausea and respiratory problems.

Quite a few of the people from Northwood went to shelters in Kensett, about 6 miles south of Northwood.

“The CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) crews and the emergency management groups are just picking up the last of their stuff and pulling out of town — if they can get out of town,” said Kensett Mayor Tom Dakin.

The mayor said emergency drills helped get them ready for the real thing.

“We train for these types of events and of course they are spontaneous so you adhere to the plan as best you can and everything went pretty smooth today. It’s not often that you evacuate a town.”

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