Friday, April 27, 2018

The Explosion at Husky Energy in Superior

The view while driving across the bridge from Duluth.
Yesterday morning I was in Carlton attending a media event at the Oldenburg House in which the new Board of Directors was introduced along with their new website. Shortly before noon, one of the board members commented on a text message from her husband, a doctor at St. Luke's, that stated there had been an explosion at a refinery in Superior. All surgeries for the day were postponed so that doctors would be available attend to casualties, which were fortunately minimal.

Police barricaded this road leading to the refinery. For good reasons.
The worst was yet to come.
Because I had to deliver a couple things to Superior right after the press conference in Carlton, which included a tasty new menu item by Chef Paul called The Oldenburger, I was quickly on the road. I crossed the Bong Bridge into Superior with the aim of seeing how near one could get to what was happening. Nearly all who have worked or lived in Superior for any length of time know where this industrial complex is. 

Thick black smoke produced by burning asphalt.
When I reached Mall Drive there were police barricades, but one could get a close by circling around through a network of neighborhoods in East Superior. I was not the first to reach what appeared to be a good side street for photos and numerous other cell phone wielding photographers were soon on location. (The better picture I should have taken would have been the row of cars behind me with people standing alongside holding up their cell phones.)

From here I began heading back to deliver my package to Goin' Postal and to place one last item on the wall for tonight's 2018 Spring Art Show. On the way I saw another angle to take a good shot from Mall Drive.

At this point in time I was unaware of the additional explosions that were now taking place. It was a little after noon and the plumes of smoke had been growing significantly, pushed south by brisk winds from the North. A helicopter or two could be seen circling the scene all the while I was near.

Once I got to Goin' Postal it became difficult to think of anything else as the TV monitor produced these gripping images of the unfolding disaster. Within a relatively short time the smoke had reached Solon Springs.

I remember my Grandmother once telling how her mother saw smoke drifting over their rural West Virginia home and that five days later they learned that Chicago had burned. Fire can be a fearful thing. 

After an hour of following the live feed online it seemed time to head back across the bridge to Duluth. 

I drove up to Skyline Drive to take this most scenic route home, and found it congested with Duluthians parked and watching the distant drama across the way. In retrospect, I wish I'd taken photos of all the people watching the billowing cloud of smoke. It makes me wonder how many times photojournalists have that same thought about scenes they saw but failed to capture.

The good news is that despite numerous explosions, there were very few injuries. The facility has its break rooms inside safely barricaded structures and the first explosion, shortly after ten a.m., was during the morning break. 

Today's newspaper stories detail what took place yesterday. A lot of damage, but they did not have to shut down the city or turn out the lights.


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