All Evacuations Lifted Following Natural Gas Explosion

Evacuations in Plymouth, WA that were in effect due to a natural gas explosion at the Williams Northwest Pipeline plant yesterday have been lifted.

Highway 14 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Rail Line are back open.

All road closures have been removed with the exception of Christie Rd. leading to the plant.

"I'm glad to be home," said Damara Orr, who lives about a mile away from the plant. "I feel safe, it's not a big deal."

Orr was told to get her husband and 5-year-old son out of the house following the explosion yesterday morning.

The plant, which lies on the Washington-Oregon border along the Columbia River houses two liquefied natural gas storage tanks, one of which was puntured by the explosion, leaking natural gas into the atmosphere.

Orr was one of nearly 300 people who left their homes around 8:20 a.m. yesterday as flames and a mushroom-shaped cloud of black smoke reached high into the air.

Orr said, luckily, she was able to return home last night but had to sign a release to do so.  

Officials said windy conditions were helpful in clearing out a lot of the vapor.

Each of these tanks can hold 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas and a Williams spokesperson said the tank was about 1/3 of the way full when the explosion took place.

Officials say that vapor, however, does not pose as a health risk to locals.

"There's nothing long standing. It's not staying down low, it just goes up," said Devin Helland of Benton County Fire District #1. "It's going up into the atmosphere and evaporating, there's no risk there."

Emergency officials have been at the plant all day trying to figure out what went wrong.

A Williams helicopter remains near the site to assist with video capability.

One plant employee, Michael Yunker, 61, is in good condition at the burn unit in Portland after suffering burns to his body.

Four other employees with non-life threatening injuries were treated at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston and released.

Responders are still on the scene and will continue to work with Williams personnel to mitigate the continued release from the damaged storage tank.

There is no weord yet on what caused the explosion.

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