Mayor: North Dakota town dodged a bullet in crude explosion
CASSELTON, N.D. — A southeastern North Dakota town narrowly escaped tragedy when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded nearby, the mayor said Tuesday, calling for changes in how the fuel is transported across the nation.
No one was hurt in the derailment on Monday of the mile-long train that sent a great fireball and plumes of black smoke skyward about a mile from the small town of Casselton. The fire had been so intense as darkness fell that investigators couldn't get close enough to count the number of burning cars. The National Transportation Safety Board started an investigation.
Most residents heeded a recommendation to evacuate their homes as strong winds blew potentially hazardous, acrid smoke toward the town overnight, Mayor Ed McConnell said. Black soot coated parts of Casselton.
“I drove in this morning and looked like most people had left. There weren't a lot of lights on,” McConnell said.
The North Dakota Department of Health warned that exposure to burning crude could cause shortness of breath, coughing and itching and watery eyes. It had said those in the vicinity with respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema should minimize outdoor activity.
As the wrecked tankers continued to smolder on Tuesday, Cass County Sheriff's Sgt. Tara Morris said a contractor hired by the railroad was testing air quality. Readings indicated improvements but authorities aren't yet prepared to “give the all-clear,” Morris said.
McConnell estimated that dozens of people could have been killed if the derailment had happened within the town. He said it is time to “have a conversation” with federal lawmakers about the dangers of transporting oil by rail.
“There have been numerous derailments in this area,” he said. “It's almost gotten to the point that it looks like not if we're going to have an accident, it's when. We dodged a bullet by having it out of town, but this is too close for comfort.”
A train carrying crude from North Dakota's Bakken oil patch crashed in Quebec last summer, bursting into flames and killing 47 people.
Shipping oil by pipeline has to be a safer option, McConnell said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pa., W.Va., Ohio to coordinate efforts to attract shale-related business
- Education tech firm Acrobatiq does software to supplement college learning
- As craft fades, personal touch helps Northway Shoes & Repair thrive
- Tesla investors leery as shares, targets plummet
- Kombucha producers resist call to indicate alcohol content on labels
- Chesapeake Energy appoints Brad Martin chairman of the board
- Budweiser brewer AB InBev wants to take over SABMiller for $108.2B
- Safety of credit cards up to banks
- Class action lawsuit in California seeks Volkswagen buyback
- Wabtec buying Australian sensor maker Track IQ
- CMU showcases its lengthy list of fledgling companies at venture event