Today is the 13th anniversary of the Refinery Explosion in Big Spring.
On Feb. 18, 2008 at approximately 8:20 a.m. an explosion at the Alon Oil Refinery in Big Spring occurred and could be felt throughout Howard County and beyond. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, initially, the fire was reported to have started in the propylene plant, but it also threatened the alkalyzation plant where hydofluoric acid (HF) is used and stored. A large, black smoke plume rose up to 6500 feet in the atmosphere.
Tim Knox, an Operations Manager and Morning Show Host for KBest Media at the time, told KBest News that when the explosion happened, most people described a loud boom and the vibrations were so strong, it felt like a car had hit the building.
"I walked up front to go walk pass the FM studio. Mike [Henry] is looking at me through the glass with his eyes as big as saucers. No idea what's going on. We look out the front window and there’s this mushroom cloud in the sky.
Of course, like everyone else that day, your thoughts go through a million different things of worst case scenarios. Was it terroristic? Did something happen along those lines out there? It was a very scary situation," said Knox.
Soon after the explosion, then-News Director Mike Henry was enroute to the refinery and KBest staff were on the air offering as much information as they could to keep the public informed. Knox told KBest News that although it was a hectic morning, officials at the refinery were able to quickly get information out about what happened.
"There's no words to describe how good they did their job that day," said Knox of the refinery officials. "Within five minutes of the explosion happening, we're on the air with somebody. We're starting to process infomation [coming] in, and try bring that information to the people as quickly as we could.
Right from the get-go, very terrifying," said Knox of the situation. "Like I said, a million things going through your mind of what it could possibly be, and none of them are good."
During a press conference concerning the explosion, it was announced that there were some injuries, but no deaths on-site. This was in part due to the minimum amount of staff that was on site because it was a President’s Day, a federal holiday.
"At this point it was on major cable networks - CNN, Fox News. They were all live from Big Spring. It was a nationwide ordeal. It was a big news story. We’re there at the news conference - Mike Henry was, I was in the studio. [Mike's] holding the microphone up to the guy, and he mentioned that there was not one casualty, no loss of life - a few injuries but no loss of life.
I remember Mike Henry just stopped in mid-sentence, and [said] ‘Can you repeat that?’ - because we were under the expectation that there were gonna be several casualties. I mean, how could you look at that and not think that.
So, that was very good news. At that point, it was almost celebratory. It’s hard to think about being in the mood to celebrate, or being happy after something like that happens, but to get through it and know that nobody lost their life was pretty amazing.”
Ultimately, there were five people injured as a result of the explosion but none were considered life-threatening. Four occured on-site and one additional injury was sustained by passing motorist who was struck by debris.
Since the incident, it's been refered to as "the miracle on Refinery Road."