Photo by EPA/LARRY W. SMITH /LANDOV permalink
Maria Galvin cleans up broken glass in the front of her business.
Maria Galvin cleans up broken glass in the front of her business.
Searchers in protective suits walk through the blast zone of the fertilizer plant that exploded.
Meghan Clontz of Oklahoma City travelled to the town of West to be with family members after the massive explosion in the town
A tattered flag on the rainy morning of Thursday, April 18, in West, Texas.
Police and rescue workers stand near a building which was left destroyed.
An aerial view shows investigators walking through the aftermath of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, near Waco, Texas April 18, 2013.
The apartment building where Darryl Garricks' grandchildren were when the blast hit. The children are OK.
Residents of West gather for a candlelight vigil on Thursday, April 19.
A flag is flown at half staff in West, Texas, near the scene of the fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday night in in the town of 2,8000 on Thursday, April 18, 2013.
After an explosion in the small town of West, Texas Wednesday night, some 14 are dead and 200 injured. The incident has displaced a number of people in the small Central Texas community, and questions have risen about the safety and regulation of the plant.
KUT photographers Filipa Rodrigues and Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon traveled to the town of West with StateImpact Texas to document the story. You can see their images, along with photos from wire services and state officials, in the gallery above.
Ruben and Riene Olivas worry what will happen to their business now that the plant has closed.
The streets of Plainview.
Statues of cattle can be found throughout town. A nod to the local importance of the industry.
Johnny Ray Muniz leaves his last shift at the Cargill Beef Processing Plant.
As Mayor Wendell Dunlap plans for the city's recovery, "your prayers are appreciated," he said.
A group picture taken the day the last cow came through the Cargill Plant.
The Cargill Excel Beef Processing plant in Plainview, Texas.
Irene and Ruben Olivas say the ripple effect of the plant closure threatens the bakery where they work.
By the time the cows arrived at Criselda Avila’s work station at the Cargill Excel Beef Processing Plant in Plainview, they had already been slaughtered, skinned and gutted. The carcasses came in hanging from a long chain that ran over the plant floor. They were divided up and divided again. Avila worked on skirt steaks.
“You gotta spread it open and then cut the little skirt off, and then throw that on the table and then peeling and just trimming the fat off is what it was,” she remembered recently, sitting in her living room. “You know, fajitas.”
It was numbingly repetitive work. More than 4,500 cows went through the plant every day. So when Avila was done with one, there was always another behind it. Then, on the last day of January, she saw something she never expected to see.
“There were the last few cows, then the last cow was coming down the chain, and people there were just banging our hooks,” she said. “People started crying, like ‘oh my god this is the end of it.’”
That was how the city of Plainview lost over 2,000 jobs. After years of drought, the U.S. cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1952. Cargill Meat Solutions, the company that owns the plant, says there are simply not enough cows in existence to keep the plant running. For years ranchers across Texas have been cutting back their herds in response to the historically dry weather, but this is the first time those cuts have reached up the supply chain, to hit the industrial heart of a Texas city. The plant closure could have wide sweeping ramifications across the region. Continue Reading
Customers at Evergreen Farms ride the trailer to the tree fields where they can pick out and cut their own tree.
Evergreen Farms owners lined up northern Fir trees in the cutting field.
Drought takes no prisoners, and Christmas trees are no exception. The 2011 drought decimated Texas wildlife, and not even resilient evergreens could take the heat. This left Christmas tree farmers in Texas with little or no trees to sell during the holidays. Some farms, like Evergreen Farms in Elgin, shipped in trees from Washington State and North Carolina to sell instead. Other farms had no choice but to close their doors.
This year, things have changed.
“We didn’t lose any from the drought this year, and we lost hundreds and hundreds last year,” says Mike Walterscheidt, owner of Evergreen Farms.
This year’s wetter summer weather improved tree growth, so Evergreen Farms is back to cutting down trees in the field. Continue Reading
Compacted by heavy equipment, each "cell" of trash covers some 15 acres and will eventually be covered with soil.
A gas recovery system is made up of 2.5 miles of pipe and 67 gas extraction wells.
Paul Pabor is Vice President of Renewable Energy for the site's operator, Waste Management, a Houston-based nationwide disposal giant.
From the landfill, the methane gas is piped to a cement-block building across the road.
Methane powers two huge engines that produce electricity.
Each engine cranks out about 1500 kilowatts
The electricity is then sent to the electric grid, enough to power up to 1800 homes in New Braunfels.
Landfills keep on producing methane for decades. This is the entrance to a city landfill in Houston and though closed in 1970, it's listed by the US EPA as a potential project to produce methane for nearby industries.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are 27 landfills in Texas that are producing enough methane gas to make electricity or provide fuel to power industrial equipment. The agency says another 57 landfills are candidates for such projects.
“Texas is one of the few remaining states with a large number of landfills that don’t already have landfill gas energy projects and may have the potential to support them,” the EPA wrote in a lengthy statement emailed to StateImpact Texas.
One of the LCRA’s tanker trucks got into an accident recently on the road into town.
Glass is still visible from the accident.
Lakes in Spicewood Beach a sign reminds residents of wetter times.
Low reservoir levels, like here at the North end of Lake Travis, have some advocating for storing more water underground, where it won't evaporate.
Lake levels are related to the levels of the water table in the area. If the lake goes down, more wells could go dry.
‘For Rent’ and ‘For Sale’ signs are a common sight Spicewood Beach. The community had been without its own source of water since January 2012.
Slide show compiled by Filipa Rodrigues
For one thing, there are a lot more ‘For Sale’ signs in front of a lot more houses.
“There’s vacancies all through here and unbelievably low prices, but there’s not takers. Who wants a house with no water?” asks Jim Watson, sitting next to his wife Wanda in their two story home.
Four Views Of The Leonid Meteor Shower Of 1966, A Peak Year For This Active Yearly Shower. The Next Leonid Peak Is In The Years 1998 To 2000. The Leonids Make Their Appearance, And Take Their Name, From A Point In The Constellation Leo. These Pictures Were Taken On November 18Th, 1966, From The Kitt Peak National Observatory Near Tucson, Arizona.
SHERBORN, UNITED STATES: The green streak of a meteor seen in the southern sky of New England photographed in Sherborn, Massachusetts early 18 November, 2001 and was one of thousands that entered the earth's atmosphere during a major meteor shower. The shower, which occurs over several days every mid-November, is called the Leonids because it appears to come from the constellation of Leo.
This Bright Leonid Fireball Is Shown During The Storm Of 1966 In The Sky Above Wrightwood, Calif. The Leonids Occur Every Year On Or About Nov. 18Th And Stargazers Are Tempted With A Drizzle Of 10 Or 20 Meteors Fizzing Across The Horizon Every Hour. But Every 33 Years A Rare And Dazzling Leonids Storm Can Occur But, Astronomers Believe The 1999 Edition Of The Leonids Probably Won'T Equal 1966, Which Peaked At 144,000 Meteors Per Hour.
Stars of the racetrack won’t be the only lights in the firmament this weekend. It’s also peak time for viewing the Leonid meteor shower. “The shower should produce perhaps a dozen or so “shooting stars” per hour,” UT’s StarDate at McDonald Observatory writes. “The best view comes in the wee hours of the morning, as your part of Earth turns most directly into the meteor stream.”
Peak viewing times should be between midnight and dawn Saturday night.
“Just remember, a meteor shower peak prediction is not an ironclad guarantee,” EarthSky writes. “If it’s clear, you might see nearly as many meteors in the predawn darkness on Friday, November 16 or Sunday, November 18. The days before and after that might feature meteors as well, as we pass through the Leonid meteor stream in space.”
The Empire State Building towers in the background of an apartment buliding in Chelsea, New York City, with the facade broken off October 30, 2012 the morning after Hurricane Sandy.
Waves break next to an apartment building which flooded from Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Water floods the Plaza Shops in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, on October 30, 2012 in Manhattan, New York.
Heavy surf caused by Hurricane Sandy buckles Ocean Ave on October 30, 2012 in Avalon, New Jersey.
A flooded Brooklyn Battery park Tunnel October 30, 2012 as New Yorkers clean up the morning after Hurricane Sandy's landfall.
Rising water, caused by Hurricane Sandy, rushes into a subterranian parking garage on October 29, 2012, in the Financial District of New York, United States.
Ocean Avenue is flooded caused by Hurricane Sandy, on October 29, 2012 in Cape May, The New Jersey coastline is feeling the full force of Sandy's heavy winds and record floodwaters.
A photographer shoots waves generated from the remnants Hurricane Sandy as they crash into the shoreline of Lake Michigan on October 30, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Waves up to 25 feet high generated by winds up to 50 miles-per-hour were expected on the lake.
A newspaper cabinet is washed up on Ocean Ave., on October 30, 2012 in Cape May, New Jersey.
Some six million people were without power this morning because of Hurricane Sandy, and at least 33 are dead, many of them killed by falling trees. Travel and transportation has largely come to a standstill in many areas of the Northeast. In the photos above, you can see the impact of one of the most destructive storms in the area’s history.
And while the storm’s physical damage is limited to the East, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been felt here in Texas. Many flights have been canceled at Texas airports. And several Texas utilities are sending staff East to help restore power in areas affected by Sandy.
Some thirty tree-trimming and eight distribution contractors from Austin Energy are headed Northeast to help, as are crews from Entergy, Oncor, and CenterPoint. AEP Texas is sending 81 employees to West Virginia to help AEP crews there restore power, and has released an additional 38 contact crews to help as well. And San Antonio’s CPS energy has a convoy of some 50 workers headed out to assist in restoring power in the Northeast.
Videos, after the jump: Continue Reading
A man walks on the boardwalk ahead of Hurricane Sandy on October 28, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie?s emergency declaration is shutting down the city?s casinos and 30,000 residents are being told to evacuate. (
A boarded-up store remains open for business as the first signs of Hurricane Sandy approach on October 28, 2012 in Fairfield, Connecticut. The storm, which could affect tens of millions of people in the eastern third of the U.S., is expected to bring days of rain, high winds and possibly heavy snow in parts of Ohio and West Virginia.
nly a few bread items remain on the shelves at the Waldbaums grocery store as Hurricane Sandy approaches on October 28, 2012 in Long Beach, New York.
A man carrys a case of water down Lexington Avenue in midtown in New York October 28, 2012 as stores begin to close down in preparation for Hurricane Sandy .
A loader makes a sand barrier on the beach to help stop storm surge from approaching hurricane Sandy, on October 28, 2012 in Cape May, New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy is expected to hit the New Jersey coastline sometime on Monday bringing heavy winds and floodwaters.
A sign reads "Danger Ocean Closed" at the entrance to the beach, due to approaching Hurricane Sandy, on October 28, 2012 in Ocean City, New Jersey.
As Hurricane Sandy cuts a path of destruction through the eastern states, many are wondering about the science behind this ‘Frankenstorm’ and whether it has any clear connection to global climate change.
In a piece titled ‘Frankenstorm: Has Climate Change Created a Monster?’, NPR’s Adam Frank notes that 2012 has been a banner year for weather anomalies: droughts, fires, floods, and extreme temperatures. But while some of those events can be tied to climate change, others cannot.
“There is a hierarchy of weather events which scientists feel they understand well enough for establishing climate change links,” Frank writes. “Global temperature rises and extreme heat rank high on that list, but Hurricanes rank low.” That being said, Frank write that warmer ocean temperatures do lead to more evaporation, “and that likely leads to storms with more and more dangerous rainfall of the kind we saw with Hurricane Irene last year.”
In situations like Sandy, climate scientists will often use an analogy: climate change is like putting expected extreme weather events on steroids. These scientists say that while it’s difficult to immediately attribute specific events to climate change (though not impossible, according to Frank), it is possible to say that many of these events are made worse by it.
Stargazers are in for another treat this weekend. The Orionid meteor shower, an annual occurrence, will make its way across the sky late Saturday night into early Sunday morning.
The best hours to see the meteor shower will be at midnight Saturday until early Sunday morning, with a peak around 2 a.m. StarDate magazine says you can expect to see some 25 meteors per hour. And some of them may look “familiar” — the meteor shower is composed of leftover debris from Halley’s comet.
The sky watchers at StarDate, a publication of the University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory, recommend getting as far away from cities as possible to see the shower. “Look for state or city parks or other safe, dark sites,” they write. “Lie on a blanket or reclining chair to get a full-sky view. If you can see all of the stars in the Little Dipper, you have good dark-adapted vision.” The big, open skies of Texas — if you can get far enough away from city lights — should be perfect for witnessing the event should skies stay clear. No rain is forecast for much of the state for Saturday night into Sunday. And the moon is only at a quarter and will set before midnight, so it shouldn’t interfere with seeing the shower.
More on the astronomy behind the celestial wonder from StarDate: Continue Reading
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline took the case to civil court at the Jefferson County Courthouse
Judge Tom Rugg Sr. listens to arguments by TransCanada's lawyer, Tom Zabel.
Protestors from along the Keystone XL route, from North Texas and as far away as Montana, came to Beaumont in support of the Hollands.
Faced with landowners who’ve refused to sell access to their property, lawyers for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project—already under construction in Texas—told a judge in Beaumont that they’re doing only as the Texas legislature intended: using “eminent domain” and “condemnation” to gain access to private land over the protests of the landowners.
“The legislature came up with this scheme because they wanted to promote the development of oil and gas in the State of Texas,” said Tom Zabel, a Houston lawyer representing TransCanada. “Texas is the largest producing state in the nation. Why? Because the legislature has encouraged the production of oil and gas pipelines. Because you can’t have oil and gas production without pipelines.” Continue Reading