Highways have been closed and people are being warned to stay inside after a chemical spill at a plant.
Many residents of Atchison, Kansas, are being allowed to return to their homes and go outside, following a scare over a toxic plume of chlorine that hovers over the city on Friday.
City officials told residents via Twitter that it was now safe for them to go outside.
Atchison City Manager Trey Cocking said in a press conference that 18 people were being treated for “respiratory discomfort,” and are currently being monitored.
Cocking said the plume was the result of two chemicals that were mixed together inadvertently during the delivery process. There was no explosion at the plant, as several reports indicated.
UPDATE: It is now safe to go outside! For more information about the incident this morning, a video of the press…https://t.co/SdQaioKT0V
— City of Atchison (@CityofAtchison) October 21, 2016
Officials with the Atchison County Emergency Management Agency told weather.com that the spill occurred at MPG Ingredients, Inc. earlier in the day. They believe the plume is comprised of chlorine.
The city of Atchison said via Twitter that the fog has lifted and the situation is improving.
If you are in the plume (the area north of MGP), SHELTER IN PLACE with your doors and windows shut. You run a greater risk by exposing yourself.
If you are outside of the plume area, please evacuate avoiding the area north of MGP (Main Street between 10th & 14th).
ALERT: If you are currently in the fog, seek shelter! If you are East of 17th Street or K-7 and North of Main Street, it is good time to seek shelter at the Atchison Event Center, Walmart, or South of town. Avoid areas near Main Street, 17th Street, Division, and the river.
A lack of wind in the area today could impact the speed of the plume as it moves north over the city, according to weather.com senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman.
“Unfortunately, there’s a pretty stable air mass in place, so that gas plume may hang around for a few hours,” Erdman said. “They could really use a windy day to help disperse it.”
Local emergency officials originally insisted that people in the direct plume area, north of MPG Ingredients, between 10th Street and 14th Street to shelter in place as the plume moves north. Residents were also warned to close all windows, turn off air and furnaces, and stay indoors.
County officials announced via Facebook that the Atchison County Courthouse closed and employees were evacuated. Several schools in the area were also temporarily evacuated.
A spokesperson from the Atchison Fire Department told weather.com that the leak is currently under control.
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“Residents were also warned to close all windows, turn off air and furnaces, and stay indoors.”
And remember… it’s only toxic if you breathe.