Formosa neighbors live in shadow of danger
POINT COMFORT - She had just put her 17-month-old daughter to sleep when the shrill sirens from Formosa Plastics went off Thursday afternoon.
But they weren't the sirens that signaled an evacuation, said Haley Thompson. And the thick cloud of black smoke she could see from her window was not coming from the area of the plant where her dad worked.
She packed a diaper bag just in case but didn't bother waking up her daughter.
"Something like this is always in the back of your mind, but it doesn't happen very often. It is just - we have grown up here; we are used to worrying about it," Thompson said. "You are always afraid of it; you never want it to happen, but sometimes it does."
Thompson, 18, lives in a little wood house in Point Comfort. It is peaceful and quiet, she said, except Mondays and Wednesdays, when the plant tests the emergency alarm system.
Thompson, her daughter, her 13-year-old brother, Michael, and her parents all live in the home that is the closest house to the Formosa plant - right across the street.
"I was mainly concerned about her," Michael said, pointing to the baby happily playing with her Dr. Seuss books. "I know that if the plant goes off, our house is gone."
Michael said living so close to the plant scares him more after the West explosion, where so many houses were destroyed.
But the family hasn't considered moving, Thompson said. Point Comfort is home.
James Ezzell, a Formosa contract worker who was born and raised in Port Lavaca, said he doesn't ever plan to move either.
"Explosions happen, but that is our moneymaker only a block away. We aren't going away and neither is it," Ezzell said, looking at the smoke stacks rising up from the horizon.
Ezzell said he was at work at Formosa when the flash fire started.
"I saw just a huge black cloud of smoke - it was freaking us out. We were in the middle of working and had to wait for them to tell us what to do," Ezzell said.
He said they were evacuated from that area of the plant, but he did not know if he had friends who were injured.
Formosa authorities are strict about safety and keeping the plant clean, Ezzell said. "But there are just some human errors you can't avoid," he added, shrugging his shoulders.
Sean Grasse, another Point Comfort native, said he is on furlough from the plant and initially thought it was his unit that suffered the blast.
"Knowing that it could be my unit - that is pretty scary, but it is something that happens. You know? It just happens. I grew up in Point Comfort, so I'm used to the plant explosions," Grasse said.
He was thankful for the north winds Thursday that should blow any harmful chemicals from the blast away from Point Comfort and Port Lavaca.
"I heard that siren - on Mondays and Wednesdays, you know they are testing the sirens, but if you hear it any other day, you know to get out of town, " Grasse said.