SHEPHERD, Texas (KIAH) — Multiple explosions were reported Wednesday morning at a chemical plant in Shepherd, which is an hour northeast of Houston. The Montgomery County Police Reporter said the plant had a major explosion around 8:30 a.m.
Authorities have said that 19 employees were at the plant at the time of the explosion. One employee received minor burns and was taken to a local hospital.
The plant is identified as Sound Resource Solutions, located at 731 FM 1127. It has been operational since 2014 and reported to have 40 employees. According to its website, the company stores and recycles chemicals including phosphoric acid, acetic acid, sulfuric acid, methanol, xylene, hexane, and more.
The San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management is asking everyone within a one-mile radius of the plant to shelter in place and turn off all HVAC systems in nearby homes and businesses immediately.
Smoke is drifting northward as winds continue to blow from the south at five to 15 miles per hour throughout the day.
Multiple victims were reported. First responders traveled to the plant from every direction, there were additional explosions.
A section of Highway 59 has been closed in both directions from FM 1988 to Exit 451B. TxDOT is asking to avoid the area and find alternative routes. Traffic is backing up all the way into Montgomery County due to the road closure.
According to the San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management, all children and employees of Wildwood Academy, a nearby private school for children ages 5 to 12, have been evacuated safely to the Shepherd ISD administration building. All 31 students were evacuated and were reunited with their parents, authorities said.
As for Shepherd ISD, the district says that all their students are safe and do not have to shelter in place due to the wind direction. Parents can come to their school to pick up their children.
The plant manufactured diesel and turpentine at the time of the explosion, Geoff Hartfield, the CEO of Sound Resource Solutions, said.
State Rep. Ernest Bailes, who represents the affected area, told Nexstar he has received a briefing from the Texas Department of Emergency Management and they are in coordination with Texas Department of Transportation on the scene now. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is en route, though the explosion is about two hours away from the TCEQ regional headquarters.
Bailes said a 22-patient trauma ambulance is en route as a precaution. The greatest concern remains spreading fire, shifting winds, and chemical inhalation.
The fire remains active. A drone team will be activated to monitor as soon as possible, Bailes said.