PLYMOUTH, Wash. -- Authorities say five workers were injured after a large explosion and fire Monday morning at a natural gas processing plant in the eastern Washington town of Plymouth.
Officials said the blast likely happened in a pump house at the Williams Northwest Pipeline natural gas facility. The explosion sent a mushroom-shaped cloud towering into the air around 8:30 a.m. and shook nearby homes.
Shrapnel from the blast punctured a liquefied natural gas tank. On Monday afternoon, white gas vapors could be seen seeping out of the tank.
Five workers were injured in the blast. One was sent to a Portland hospital, while the other four were treated for minor injuries at a hospital in Hermiston, Ore.
Police said the punctured tank is half full, but holds 7 million pounds of natural gas and there is concern the gas might explode.
Deputies went door to door throughout Plymouth, along the Columbia River, and evacuated hundreds of people in a 2-mile radius of the plant. On Monday night, the evacuation area was reduced to one mile.
Buses were provided for those without cars, and a shelter was set up across the river in Oregon at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds. As part of the evacuation, Highway 14 and railroad tracks were shut down. Highway 14 was reopened Monday night.
Some nearby homeowners said they didn't realize they lived so close to a natural gas plant.
I was sitting in my recliner and I heard, like, this sonic boom, said homeowner Jerrie Thomas. Our RV shook and rattled and my recliner rattled and I said, 'Wow, what was that?' I opened my door ... and a couple minutes later I saw the plume of black smoke.
Williams Northwest Pipeline operates two liquefied natural gas tanks at Plymouth, which is across the Columbia River from Umatilla, Ore. Tri-City Herald reportsHighway 14 through Plymouth was closed.