Louisiana town evacuates as police move 6M pounds of poorly-stored explosives
Law enforcement personnel stand at a roadblock along Hwy 163 just south of Doyline, La., on Dec. 1, 2012. Authorities have begun moving 1 million pounds of improperly stored explosive powder to storage bunkers at the Camp Minden industrial site. (AP Photo/Shreveport Times/Jim Hudelson)
The Associated Press
Published Monday, December 3, 2012 3:22PM EST
DOYLINE, La. -- Weather could complicate the transfer of roughly 6 million pounds of explosives that state officials say were haphazardly stored at an industrial site in northwestern Louisiana and led to the evacuation of a small town, a state police spokeswoman said Monday.
If lightning is spotted within eight kilomoters of the site, authorities will suspend efforts to move the artillery propellant that began on Saturday, Lt. Julie Lewis said.
Light rain fell at midday in the vicinity of the site near the town of Doyline. No lightning was expected Monday, but thunderstorms were forecast for Tuesday.
Officials estimate that more than half of Doyline's 800 residents heeded police advice to evacuate in advance of the cleanup at the Explo Systems Inc. site. Col. Mike Edmondson, commander of Louisiana State Police, said the material is stable and would need an ignition source to explode. Precautions were taken because officials fear that any spark could set off a huge explosion of the material, which they said was stored improperly in a relatively small area.
Edmonson said that Explo Systems leases and controls about 162 hectares of the 6,070-hectare Camp Minden, a former ammunition plant that now is a state-owned industrial site and home to a National Guard training facility. He estimated that the M6 propellant was stored in an area of less than 4 hectares.
It was discovered there, stored indoors and outdoors, sometimes in containers that had spilled open, by a trooper following up on an October explosion at the facility.
Explo is now the subject of a criminal investigation, state police said.
The company has not publicly commented on the investigation. Its website says it has been "demilitarizing" and recovering explosives and propellant for 15 years.
Edmonson said "it was stuffed in corners. It was stacked all over."
He said that in two days, crews had moved nearly a 1 million pounds from the tightest-packed buildings into approved containers and onto 27 tractor-trailers to move to storage bunkers.
Company officials could not be reached Sunday. The owners were believed to be returning Monday from a business trip to South Korea, but a manager has been working with state police from the start, Edmonson said.
A call to a Shreveport attorney who represents the company was not returned Monday.