You pull off the highway, it's right there on the feeder road, and you roll out with fantastic pastries. People at the bakery last night could see the smoke flume, and could feel the concussive wave from the explosion.
There's not much to West, it's a typical small Texas town - a Sonic, Wal-mart, lots and lots of small businesses. And the fertilizer plant. Only about 2000 people in the whole place. Wide open spaces filled with people who don't make much.
To give you an idea of the scope of this, the Oklahoma City Bombing by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols used around 2000 pounds of ammonium nitrate (basically powdered urine) to blow up 16 city blocks. In West, they had 54,000 pounds.
The stuff that blew up last night was anhydrous ammonia, NH3 - stuff you put on your grass to green it up. That ScottsGreen, Miracle Grow, ChemLawn on and on. That's what it is. (To be fair, that stuff is also used in pharmecutical production. But that's not what this particular plant makes.) As a gas, it's absolute poison. If you used ammonia in your bathroom to clean your tub and you didn't have a vent open? You realistically could die. (Hey, on Hoarders they talk about this with cat urine and how it kills people.) Now magnify that to the scale of that plant. It's just devastating.
All this week I've been writing a script for my show about fertilizers, why people need to lay off, etc. Huh. Fucking timely.
[ETA] Correction. Old school NH3, Ammonia nitrate comes from dried urine (usually pigs). This plant used all of this natural gas that's slowly poisoning the water table (another rant for another day) mixed with atmospheric ammonia. Yay? (I wish they'd go back to powdered pig piss. At least that stuff would be getting used. OR STOP USING MANUFACTURED FERTILIZERS, GUYS. FARMS. <-- mostly them.)
I don't know if any of you are from that area (or have people there) but this is a great list of resources from finding people, getting shelter, and organizations that are accepting donations.