Web-posted Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Lightning, hail pound Panhandle
Tyson wastewater plant partly burns
By Josh Burton
Thunderstorms dumped hail across the Panhandle, while lightning may have sparked a large chemical fire at the Tyson Foods Inc. plant east of Amarillo.
The fire began about 6:50 p.m. at a Tyson wastewater plant east of the main facility. Potter County and Amarillo fire crews battled flames shooting from the concrete structure.
Amarillo Fire Department Capt. Bob Johnson said plant workers told him they were inside when they heard a loud crash of thunder. A few minutes later workers noticed the building was on fire.
Hydrogen sulfide, solid sulfur and possibly fiberglass tanks burned in the fire, Johnson said.
Amarillo Emergency Management crews also responded to the fire.
Firefighters exited the burning building to avoid exposure to hazardous chemicals around 8 p.m. and returned about an hour later, Johnson said.
"Luckily, it burned itself out," Johnson said.
Crews were inspecting the building to ensure the fire was out late Tuesday, Johnson said.
At 8 p.m., the Potter County Sheriff's Office closed St. Francis Avenue between Farm-to-Market 1912 and Farm-to-Market 683.
The Tyson plant was not evacuated because the fire was isolated at the water-treatment facility, Johnson said.
The thunderstorms also produced hail, and funnel clouds were reported in the area.
Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport received 0.03 inches of rain as of 10 p.m., said Chris Nuttall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Hen egg-size hail was reported west and northwest of Vega, and golf ball-size hail was reported west and northwest of Channing and southwest of Adrian, Nuttall said.
There were reports of funnel clouds near Friona and reports of quarter-size hail throughout the area, Nuttall said.
The NWS expected scattered showers overnight across the area, but nothing severe.
About 9,000 Xcel Energy customers in southwest Amarillo, Dumas and Pampa lost power, spokesman Wes Reeves said.
Reeves said crews were still investigating the cause of the problem late Tuesday night.