Remembering The Role The Weather Played In The Husky Superior Refinery Explosion

Evacuation Area Quickly Spread South From Strong Winds

SUPERIOR, Wisc. — Many of us will never forget the fear and nervousness as the evacuation zone continued to grow last year on April 26th Husky Refinery explosion.

The National Weather Service in Duluth and Fox 21’s Meteorologist Brittney Merlot closely forecasted the winds strength and direction that quickly carried the thick, possibly toxic, heavy black smoke southward. Winds were strong out of the northwest, gusting up to 35 mph, pushing the plume and evacuation area as far south as Minong, Wisconsin.

The smoke from the fire was also billowing so high up in the sky, that it was even picked up as “rain showers” on Doppler radar.

“We need to make sure both the air quality at the refinery and throughout the city is 100% safe. We are looking for zeros, zero risk to the public. When those things are true, then we are going to lift the evacuation order.” explained Superior’s Mayor, Jim Paine.

Once the fire was put out, the risk and hazardous still burned on. Now the winds were shifting to off of the lake and swung the dark cloud of pollution towards the western hometowns.

“As the winds shifts and as the smoke plume shifts, you will smell stuff that you can’t see. There is an odor threshold for chemicals that a lot of the times is hazardous. If you smell it, it can be of an alarm or concern. So we want to get out and monitor the air and find out what the levels are in the communities downwind.” said the EPA Federal On-Scene Coordinator David Morrison.

As the evening approached, the winds calmed to 5 mph and allowed the smoke to settle in the Twin Ports area. Unusual smells were reported overnight and many people kept their windows shut.

After a sleepless night for many, the evacuation order was lifted at 6 a.m. the next morning. Light rain showers also moved in and helped freshen up the air quality as well. But the next concern became the polluted rain entering the soil.

It’s a day in the Twin Ports history that many will never forget.

Ironically 1 year later, the weather is exactly the same; sunshine and strong winds out of the northwest, gusting up to 35mph. This time, blowing around clean fresh air.

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