A natural gas plant near Medford, Oklahoma, erupted in flames Saturday following an explosion that prompted evacuation of most residents.
Grant County Sheriff Scott Sterling notified area residents soon after the event, saying the evacuation zone was set for two miles around the burning ONEOK plant. He asked area residents to avoid travel into or through Medford on U.S. Highway 81 while emergency responders battled the blaze.
“The evacuation zone for Medford is Highway 11 south,” Sterling informed followers of the department’s Facebook page. “If you live south of Highway 11 you need to leave your location. No timetable for returning is available at this time.” Almost 90 percent of the town is situated south of Highway 11, so most of the nearly 1,000 residents were likely affected.
A sheriff’s department spokeswoman reached by telephone Sunday by Resist the Mainstream said the fire is out. “It’s out,” she said, “but it may still be smoldering.”
The evacuation order had been extended at midnight Sunday until noon, according to the sheriff department’s update. A further update noted the town government had further extended the evacuation until 6 p.m. Sunday.
The company that owns the Medford gas plant made arrangements with a number of hotels in (relatively) nearby communities to provide housing Saturday for people forced to evacuate. ONEOK extended the hotel accommodations for affected residents to include Sunday night, according to the sheriff’s department.
“Saturday, there was an incident at ONEOK’s Medford natural gas liquids fractionation facility,” said company spokesman Brad Borror in a Sunday statement. “All ONEOK personnel are accounted for, and we are unaware of any injuries at this time.”
“ONEOK personnel continue to prioritize the safety of our employees and the community as we focus on site response and damage assessment at our Medford natural gas liquids fractionation facility,” Borror added. “The evacuation order issued yesterday has been extended to 6:00 p.m. CT today to assist in these response efforts.”
ONEOK is a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based company with a market capitalization of approximately $25 billion. The company owns natural gas liquids systems, connecting supply in the Rocky Mountain, Permian and Mid-Continent regions with market centers and a network of natural gas gathering, processing, storage and transportation assets, according to the company’s profile.
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