1955 Whiting Refinery Fireplace Ranks As Catastrophic Industrial Accident
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1955 Whiting refinery fire ranks as catastrophic industrial accident
Up to date on August 24, 2015 Robert Kostanczuk moreContact Writer Documentary examines the Indiana conflagration that raged for days at Customary Oil plant
Story by Robert Kostanczuk
In the early morning of Aug. 27, 1955, the usual Oil refinery in Whiting, Ind. was rocked by a titanic explosion.
The destruction that adopted nonetheless ranks as probably the most monumental industrial accidents in United States historical past — 60 years later.
An estimated 1.25 million barrels of crude oil and refined product burned and went up in smoke.
Combating the fireplace didn’t totally come to an end for eight days — it smoldered for that lengthy.
In its coverage of the disaster, The Gary Publish-Tribune mentioned that one storage tank was still belching black smoke because the catastrophe entered “its second week.”
A 3-yr-previous boy was killed when a big, torpedo-like chunk of steel from the blast soared by the air from at least a quarter-mile away and tore by means of the top of his dwelling, placing him in the bedroom.
The boy’s eight-year-outdated brother — who was in the same room — additionally was hit by the flying debris and had a leg severed in the 2600 block of Schrage Ave.
A plant supervisor in his early 60s died of a coronary heart attack when he arrived on the engulfed refinery to help battle the catastrophe.
Dozens of people had been injured, a number of properties were destroyed and lots of more were substantially broken.
Refinery workers and firefighters from surrounding cities, who, mixed, numbered in the hundreds, fought the inferno for days.
I do know these information as a result of I wrote a detailed retrospective on the conflagration to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster in 2005.
I had a private interest within the story that I did for summit petrochemical trading inc linz the Publish-Tribune of northwest Indiana.
My elementary-grades schooling happened at Whiting’s Immaculate Conception College, situated simply a number of blocks from the refinery.
My household lived on the 2400 block of White Oak Avenue — the second avenue over from the refinery that sits along Lake Michigan.
I was 10 months previous when, at round 6:12 a.m. my neighborhood was rocked when the 26-story tall Fluid Hydroformer Unit 700 blew apart — the result of a combustible mix of gases and oxygen.
The nightmare had begun for the 1,600-acre Customary plant.
Sheets of flames shot a half-mile or extra into the air. A dense, gargantuan mushroom cloud of smoke billowed a couple of miles into the sky.
The Saturday blast at FHU 700 caused a horrifying shaking of my house. One of many members of my family recalls her bedroom window being shattered. We needed to evacuate and stay with relations for quite some time.
Flying metal rocketed for about two blocks earlier than demolishing a garage. A grocery store was leveled. Quite a few windows had been broken.
For my 50th anniversary story, I interviewed a 68-yr-previous Whiting resident who lived simply a few blocks from the refinery when its gigantic hydroformer exploded in 1955.
He mentioned the concussive drive “blew me out of bed.”
The destruction of FHU 700 set off a series of oil-tank blasts.
When it was all stated and executed, greater than 60 mammoth storage tanks had been destroyed.
In conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the standard Oil catastrophe in 2015, the short documentary — “One Minute After Sunrise” — might be proven freed from charge at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, in the Whiting Highschool Auditorium. The film consists of recollections from quite a few folks in regards to the large industrial accident. DVDs of “One Minute After Sunrise” will likely be available for $12 at the exhibiting.
Whiting Mayor Joseph Stahura was born the year after the refinery disaster, but he realizes the reminiscence of it lingers in his group.
“It’s form of embedded in people’s minds; it was in all probability a reasonably wonderful and horrific sight at that time,” Stahura advised me in a current interview.
The mayor has had a personal stake in the oil trade that is a part of the very fiber of Whiting, which has been promoted because the “Little City” on Lake Michigan. Stahura mentioned he worked at the refinery for nearly 23 years before becoming mayor, having been employed there when the plant went by way of identify transitions — from Amoco, to BP Amoco to only BP, the refinery’s present identify.
The refining of crude oil into gasoline is, you would say, part of Whiting’s personality.
Whiting — now with a inhabitants of about 5,000 — celebrated its centennial in 1989 based on when the usual Oil Firm broke ground for its refinery in Whiting, which was 1889.
Whiting was not formally included as a metropolis till 1903.
2003 marked the final year Stahura was employed at the refinery, the place he worked within the operations division and eventually turned a coaching coordinator in that division who handled safety points.
Stahura, 58, expressed optimism that a repeat of an industrial accident on the scale of the 1955 incident can be averted.
“I don’t suppose something like that would even occur in today’s world with all of the safeguards and security gear put in place,” he stated.
That, for me, is a comforting opinion.
The horrid experience of Aug. 27, 1955, is something you don’t want to relive.
One of the vital haunting images from the blast appeared in the Post-Tribune.
The nighttime photograph reveals two of the Indiana National Guardsmen who have been known as in to keep onlookers from getting too close to the dangerous accident site, and to protect the peace and prevent looting.
As refinery flames roar in the background, the two helmeted guardsmen stand alone a deserted road with what appear to be rifles strapped to their shoulders.
You can nearly feel the eerie quiet and sense the ravaged, desolate panorama.
Many a whole bunch of residents who lived near the standard Oil plant had already been evacuated.
I don’t like using the time period “war zone” to describe scenes that are not really a part of military summit petrochemical trading inc linz battle, but on this case, the Nationwide-Guardsmen picture actually did convey the texture of a war zone.
Part of the National Guardsmen’s obligations was to maintain traffic away from Indianapolis Boulevard, which borders the refinery.
It was reported that components of the boulevard melted from flaming fuel.
Amazingly, the standard Oil refinery was back at normal crude-barrel production ranges about three months after the explosions and blaze.
Right this moment, the BP Whiting Refinery stays a vital supply of income for the city.
“It’s our largest summit petrochemical trading inc linz taxpayer,” Stahura noted. “They’re nice partners with us proper now. They make use of a ton of individuals.”
The petroleum mecca additionally retains the community’s century-previous “Oil City” identity going.
Whiting High school sports groups are named the Oilers.
Nightmare hit small city within the ’50s
Hellish smoke from refinery billowed skyward
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