Thursday, March 31, 2005

Spill Forces Evacuation

What a traffic mess this has caused. I had a lunch meeting with a couple of friends at The Executive on Hwy 90 where they are re-routing traffic and it was insane. It took me over 20 minutes to get from the interstate exit to the restaurant when normally it would only take 3-5 minutes.


Spill forces evacuation
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Staff Reporters
A tractor-trailer rig hauling a highly explosive, toxic chemical overturned Wednesday morning as it exited Interstate 10 in south Mobile County, forcing the evacuation of dozens of businesses and homes but no injuries, authorities said.

People within a half-mile radius of the spill were evacuated and several roadways were closed during the ordeal that began shortly after 7 a.m.

Closing the roads -- including I-10 in both directions at Rangeline Road in Tillman's Corner -- led to tremendous traffic jams as drivers tried to find alternate routes. I-10 remained closed late into the night Wednesday.

Cpl. Marcus Young, a Mobile police spokesman, said that before I-10 was closed there were several, minor vehicle crashes on it as people slowed for a better view of the wrecked truck and the many emergency vehicles.

According to Steve Huffman, a Mobile Fire-Rescue Department spokesman who was on the scene, the company that owns the truck said about 400 gallons of the approximately 5,000 gallons of epichlorohydrin leaked from the damaged tanker.

Huffman said, however, that the Fire-Rescue team estimated about 100 gallons had spilled.

The company that owns the wrecked truck estimated the spill at about 400 gallons.

Dean Ulloch, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's emergency response coordinator on the scene, described the chemical as "very nasty stuff ... very explosive, very toxic." He said it hangs close to the ground, and "if you can smell it, you're too close."

Exposure to sufficient quantities of the gas can cause severe damage to the lungs, and can damage the liver, the kidneys and the nervous system, according to hazardous substance data from federal agencies. It is also a severe skin irritant, and passes easily through the skin. The New Jersey Department of Health notes that it is a probably carcinogen, and should he handled with extreme caution.

Danger of fire:

But firefighters were also concerned about another attribute of the chemical.

"It has a flash point of about 87 degrees, meaning if it reaches 87 degrees it could cause a fire," Huffman said.

Late Wednesday afternoon Ulloch said at the scene his first priority was to oversee a safe transfer of the contents of the truck, and his second priority was to control any environmental impacts.

Ulloch said the small quantity of chemical that had spilled had been stabilized to slow its spread. The overturned truck, he said, had been grounded to prevent any sparks and crews were waiting for the proper valves to allow them to pump much of the chemical out of the wrecked truck and into another truck.

Two loads of sand were brought to the scene to build a dike around the damaged truck and the spilled chemical did not spread into a nearby ditch, said Huffman, the fire department spokesman.

Cleanup continues:

Transfering the chemical began about 9 p.m., Huffman said. He said the crew hoped to have the overturned truck emptied and moved by 1 a.m., allowing the interstate to be reopened, although the exit ramp would remain closed while the cleanup continued.

The evacuation order was issued by the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department. Huffman said about 6 p.m. that residents who were evacuated should not expect to sleep at home Wednesday night.

"We try to err on the side of caution," he said. "We are not going to move everybody back in until we are positive everything is clear."

Dean Byrnes, the plans and operations officer for the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency, said that the decisions about evacuation were made at the site by the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department. He said EMA officials made sure that portable toilets and food, provided by the Salvation Army, were available to workers in the field.

Paula Tillman, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Alabama Gulf Coast Chapter, said at the scene that a shelter for the evacuees had been set up at Government Street Baptist Church in the 3400 block of Government Boulevard. By 10 p.m., only four people had showed up at the shelter, she said.

Huffman said the overturned truck, from Freeport, Texas, was eastbound on the interstate when it exited at Rangeline Road in Tillman's Corner shortly after 7 a.m. and overturned.

The truck was headed to Degussa Corp. off Rangeline Road and a few miles south of the crash site, Huffman said.

Driver apparently unhurt:

Huffman said the driver of the truck that overturned was either driving too fast or "fell asleep" at the wheel. Huffman said that to his knowledge the truck driver was not injured.

"I would say he walked away, but I think it's more like he ran away," the spokesman said.

About 100 homes were evacuated, according to the Red Cross. None of those evacuated had reported to the shelter as of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

I-10 from U.S. 90 to Interstate 65 as well as short stretches of Rangeline Road, Halls Mill Road and other streets in the area of the spill were closed to traffic.

Traffic was rerouted around the blocked roadways, and there were reports of traffic jams on Cottage Hill and Schillinger roads, two of Mobile's main thoroughfares. Some motorists said it was taking from 45 minutes to an hour longer than usual to get around the site.

Business delays:

The traffic snare caused long delays at businesses that rely on deliveries.

As cars and 18-wheelers crept slowly by along U.S. 90 a few miles north of Tillman's Corner, Jesse Ferguson, 65, of Irvington stood with his arms crossed and his back against the brick sign in front of Fausak Tire Center.

Ferguson said he had been staring at traffic since 7:30 a.m., when he arrived to have the brakes on his car replaced. It was then nearly noon.

"It was supposed to be a 30-minute job, but they had to order my brakes from Mobile," he said, nodding at the choked-up road. "My brakes are apparently out in this mess somewhere."

Jimmy and Anne Watt sat in the Taco Bell on U.S. 90 in Tillman's Corner, eating an early lunch and hoping the traffic would clear up a little before they had to hurry back to their Dauphin Island Parkway home.

They care for their quadripelegic son, and didn't want to leave him home alone too long, they said.

"We just wanted to come to Wal-Mart and look at some pretty flowers," Jimmy Watt said. "Instead, we got caught up in this. We decided we might was well have a full stomach while we sit in traffic."

Keith Jones, a spokesman for the Degussa plant, said at the scene that epichlorohydrine is mixed with other chemicals at the plant then sold to the pulp and paper industry to be used as a filler.

Huffman said epichlorohydrine is a solvent that also is used to make plastics.

Teams respond:

Members of the Mobile fire department hazardous materials team and members of a similar team for Degussa responded to the crash.

The fire department team was able to stop the leak about 9 a.m., according to Huffman. He said the plan was to transfer the chemical into another tanker truck and move the damaged truck to a safer area.

The Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse and the Wal-Mart Supercenter as well as numerous other smaller businesses were evacuated following the spill.

Wal-Mart officials at the company's corporate office said the corporation would not comment on the evacuation and how much it cost in lost business.

Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman at Lowe's corporate office in North Carolina, also would not comment on what the evacuation cost the company.

The company's concern was "the safety of our employees and our customers," Smith said. She referred other questions to Doug Hartley, manager of the Lowe's that was evacuated.

Hartley said about 75 workers and 75 customers were evacuated. It went off without a hitch, he said.

"Police came in and let us know there was a mandatory evacuation and it was an extremely volatile chemical that had spilled and shut down the business," Hartley said.

"The biggest thing was to get our folks out and the customers out as quickly as possible. It took about 15 minutes to shut the store down, and it was very orderly."

He said the store planned to reopen at its usual time today at 6 a.m. The store usually closes at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, he said.

A U.S. Postal Service news release said that as a result of the evacuation no mail was delivered Wednesday to homes and businesses along Higgins Road, Cyprus Shores Road and Rangeline Road.

U.S. Environmental, a Mobile company that cleans up chemical spills, will handle the cleanup, Huffman said.

(Environment Editor Bill Finch and Staff Reporter Russ Henderson contributed to this report.)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Fairhope Arts & Crafts

On Saturday morning we got up and decided to go across the bay to Fairhope, AL for the annual Arts & Crafts festival. There was a lot going on this weekend and the weather was perfect. Mobile held the Azalea Trail run in downtown and huge crowds gathered to cheer on the runners.

We made it to Fairhope and parked by some beautiful flowers. Fairhope is a cute little colony town and they plant flowers all over their city. Fairhope is located on Mobile Bay and Fairhope pier is one of the main attractions. Downtown is full of cute little shops and this was the setting for the festival. We ended up not buying anything but we had a great time. When we left we traveled down the street to the pier and enjoyed the view for a while and then went a little further down to Pelican Point to see the damage from Hurricane Ivan. Pelican Point bar is another local landmark to a lot of people. It sustained a good bit of damage in the hurricane and from the looks of things I don't know if they will ever open again or not. It doesn't look like anything has been done in the way of repairs and it has been over six months since the storm.

We made it back to Mobile about 3:00pm and I was really tired from all of the walking. Luke laid down and took a nap and I did a few things on the computer. That evening we went to Blu Bistro to check out the new menu and then headed home to watch movies.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Parade

The Friendly Sons rolled at 11:15 am today after going to mass at the Cathedral. The parade was short but full of St. Patrick's Day spirt and lots of green.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Where have I been?

Wow it has already been a month since I posted anything. So sorry to all but it has been a crazy few weeks. As most of you know, in January I lost my job which I hated anyway. I began to build my own client list and worked on my own up until Mardi Gras began. I took the two weeks of Mardi Gras for my vacation as I usually do and really enjoyed the season. I hope everyone enjoyed all of the pictures. Once Mardi Gras ended, and a couple of recovery days, I had to get back to work. I continued to pick up more clients and was working a lot for DNC of Mobile, Inc. I have been working with Eddie(the owner) and Cathy(the office manager) for several years through my old job. They are terrific people to work with. In January Eddie and discussed wanting to hire me to handle the books among other things so that Cathy could work as project manager. Once Mardi Gras was over things started happening fast. I was working with all of my new clients and on March 1st I began working full time for DNC. I still have all of my side clients and have the flexibility to do both jobs. In fact I just picked up a new client this past week. Everything is going so well for a change. Maybe 2005 will be a good year after all.

Anyway, I am sorry I have not had time to post anything but as always there is not much going on for a few weeks after Mardi Gras ends. I guess everyone is partied out.

In Mardi Gras societies the meeting after Mardi Gras is their Annual meeting. This meeting is when the officers for the new year are voted on. (CLICK ON THE TITLE LINK TO SEE THE REST OF THIS WRITEUP AND PICTURES.)

On Sunday, March 6th we had our first WBC meeting of the new season. The biggest thing was planning our Summer Swarm and voting on the one new member that we had been screening over the past year. She was voted in by 100% of the members as is the rule. If one person votes no then the prospective person does not get in. We met mid-morning at Patti's condo and had brunch prepared by the members. Charlotte cooked omelets to order for everyone and of course the Balitorie flowed freely. It was a fun day.

This past Thursday my other organization had their annual meeting. I am not able to really take a lot of pictures in this group because of certain people..... (CLICK ON THE TITLE LINK TO SEE THE REST OF THIS WRITEUP AND PICTURES.)

On Saturday the Exchange Club Family Center held their annual St. Patrick's Chili Cookoff and Parade. This year the parade had twelve float filled with people of all ages. Cabbage, potatoes, carrots as well as beads, moonpies and candy were thrown to the crowds. My son tried to catch a head of cabbage that was thrown as a high rate of speed and spang his wrist but in true Dean family spirit continued to pick up goodies and did not complain until he got home and wrapped up his wrist. You have to expect to sustain an injury every now and then if you attend an event where you know people will be throwing things at you. As usual in Mobile there are signs posted along the parade routes letting people know not to park on the streets there for two hours before, during and after the parade. For some reason people ignored the signs and were parked all along Conception Street. We watched while cars where towed away. Not even the rich get special treatment when it comes to parking on parade routes. The police department towed a Mercedes and joked with the tow truck driver about getting a BMW and Mercedes in the same day. As the truck began to pull off with the Mercedes the owner came running up to try to save his vehicle but it was too late. He should have been paying closer attention when parking. The truck made it's way down the street with the car's alarm blaring for all to admire.

The cookoff was great with booths from the Mobile Mystics as well as the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, who will parade on Thursday. There were games for the kids, hotdogs, snow cones and beer for every Irish person to savor.

Read the article for the Mobile Register
Parade, cook-off dish up Irish fun
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Staff Reporter>