Footage has been released showing the moment lightning struck a Louisiana oil refinery June 3, prompting an evacuation and shelter-in-place orders in Lake Charles.
In the footage, lightning can be seen striking a large tank at Calcasieu Refining in Lake Charles. Moments later, a small flame appears on the side of the tank, quickly erupting into a large and devastating fire.
Watch Spectacular slow motion CCTV footage of an oil tank catching fire after a lightning strike, struck the plant in Lake Charles,… pic.twitter.com/JitrBykDz0
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“We had a pretty strong lightning storm come through the area, a thunderstorm, there was a lot of lightning. One of the lightning bolts hit the edge of this tank and it set the top of the tank on fire,” Russ Willmon, president and CEO of the Calcasieu Refining Company, told KPLCTV News. (RELATED: Fire Destroys 160-Year-Old Massachusetts Church)
Residents living within a 1.5 mile radius of the facility were forced to evacuate their homes, returning hours later on Sunday morning after the blaze was put out by fire officials.
Officials are reviewing safety protocols in the fire’s aftermath, telling KPLCTV News that in emergencies there are usually three methods of contact officials use to alert residents: sirens, ring-down, and text messaging system. Out of the more than 25,000 residents urged to shelter in place in the wake of the blaze, most did not get the message through those systems.
“The sirens are designed to catch people that are outdoors, so they have about a one-mile radius. So, depending on whether you are in your house and you have your TV on or your AC on, you may not hear your siren unless you’re very close to it,” Director of Homeland Security Dick Gremillion stated, according to the outlet.
The text messaging and call systems, designed to reach those out of reach of the sirens, however, also failed to alert most residents.
“Over 1,634 confirmed that they received the message, 6,028 was unreachable and 19,000 was unconfirmed,” Assistant Director of Homeland Security Jared Maze told the outlet.
The mayor’s office stated that many law enforcement and fire officials made “many in-person contacts” to alert surrounding residents of the evacuation orders, the outlet reported. The mayor’s office also indicated some of the sirens in and around Lake Charles are due for repairs or replacement, which will be undertaken as part of an upgrade project by the Calcasieu Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.