Alert lifted after power loss at Texas plants

Associated Press / April 27, 2011

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TEXAS CITY, Texas — Residents of a southeast Texas city were told they could go outside again yesterday, after officials determined that power outages did not cause three Houston-area refineries and a chemical plant to release unhealthy amounts of harmful gases.

The “shelter-in-place’’ order for Texas City was lifted around noon, about 12 hours after the first alarms sounded, warning people to stay inside, said Bruce Clawson, homeland security coordinator.

Residents had been advised twice since Monday night to stay inside after power failures shut down a Dow Chemical plant and all or parts of three refineries, including a BP unit where a 2005 explosion killed 15 people. Texas City schools canceled classes.

The order was lifted because air-quality monitors showed no harmful emissions, Clawson said. “There was constant monitoring going on at all times and it did not reveal anything, although there’s a strong smell of hydrocarbons in the air,’’ he said.

Emergency officials were working to determine what caused the outages, which a spokeswoman for Texas New Mexico Power company said involved a “customer-owned equipment problem.’’

Utility spokeswoman Cathy Garber said the company provides power to the affected plants but was not the source of the outages. Garber said four “events’’ affected transmission lines Monday night, but said she did not have details.

Texas City’s emergency sirens sounded and residents were advised to stay indoors after the BP refinery and Dow plant lost power about 11 p.m. Monday, Clawson said. top stories on Twitter

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