Harris County Judge Says Air Quality OK As Wind Carries Smoke Away From Petrochemical Plant Fire
Authorities say a plume of pitch-black smoke from a fire at a Houston-area petrochemicals terminal is traveling thousands of feet into the atmosphere and lessening concerns about air quality in the region.
Harris County's top administrator, Judge Lina Hidalgo, said at a news conference Tuesday that the plume is moving at least 4,000 feet into the air and staying high enough so that the air quality is not cause for alarm.
Officials say the fire that began Sunday at the Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park, southeast of Houston, remains intense enough to create its own micro weather system, causing shifting winds in the area.
Harris County Health Authority Dr. Umair Shah says "there continues to be low risk to our community," but explains that vulnerable groups such as the elderly should be cautious.
There have been no reports of injuries from the fire.
Officials say it's unclear how long it will take to extinguish the large blaze, which is burning several storage tanks filled with gasoline components.
Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen said at a news conference Tuesday that she doesn't know how long it will take for the fire to burn itself out.
Officials previously said the fire could burn itself out by Wednesday..
Authorities say a drop in water pressure caused the fire to intensify overnight and spread to additional storage tanks.
Company officials said Tuesday that five tanks are still burning and three have burned out. Two tanks that didn't have anything in them have collapsed.
Students returned to classes Tuesday, but outside activities will be restricted as the fire continues to emit a huge plume of smoke that can be seen for miles.
This post has been updated.