It's 9:40pm so I'm getting ready to go to bed and texts and calls are coming in about a large boom sound at BP in Whiting and then sirens and alarm sounds. A resident says Indianapolis Boulevard is closed between 129th and Schrage Avenue. Because I'm local radio guy and get a lotta info quickly, I post UNCONFIRMED reports on Facebook and Twitter. I'm the first or damn near to post it.
This is so strange in that today is the 59th anniversary of the big explosion at Standard Oil (now BP) in 1955. We talked about it a bunch on the show today. NWI Times sportswriter Al Hamnik was in studio and said he was thrown from his bed to the wooden floor when he was only six-years-old. For Al, the day turned especially scary since his dad was at work at the Sinclair refinery and for a long time no one really knew which refinery had blown up.
My mom, who passed a long time ago, told me about the explosion and the chaos that followed when she showed up at Hammond High for school...
The Standard Oil explosion is just one of those things that every Region person who was around then remembers exactly where they were when it happened.
Anyways, I'm not hopping in my car and driving down the Boulevard just yet to check on this explosion at BP. I've done that hundreds of times, got in my car and hurried off to the big story. It's my job, after all, as local radio guy. Live in the community, work in the community, do radio in the community.
But I've learned that if there's a really big story I can almost quarterback coverage of it better from my bedroom with internet, phone, radio, tv, etc, than from the scene. Sometimes I'll run out to the big story and then no one's live on the air and I've got all this great footage and sound bites but I've got no laptop to cut it all up with and no internet to post it with.
So here I sit in bed waiting for more info. Ambulances visible...
Also, now we have a live late-night show with Rick Kubic called "Region After Dark" from 10pm to midnight. Rick talks a lot about music and plays a bunch and does a kind of stream of consciousness about his day... but he's also there in case a big news story breaks and here it is. Rick can take phone calls and quarterback coverage if this thing gets really big. And he'll wake me up, if need be. Hope no one got hurt. I know a lot of guys who work out there, including my brother and some cousins.
.... One thing about being Local Radio Guy... the best leads and info can fall into your lap. Here's what I just posted on Facebook before heading to bed at 10:30pm. Hope it's accurate and calms some fears.
An unofficial but usually reliable source inside the BP plant tells me that it was a hydrogen compressor that blew. He says it's one injury as far as he knows and that for the most part it's under control. He says it may be a compressor that feeds the CFU (Cat Feed Unit). Source says that it may be best to close inlets and outlets and let it burn out at the source so that vapors don't escape out of the refinery.
From my days as laborer at Amoco... these big compressors take vapors and gases and compress them into liquid at high pressure... definitely volatile.