Evacuation orders in place due to concerns from gas plant explosion near Haven

Natural gas in area raises new concerns, prompts evacuations near site of plant explosion
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 2:07 PM CDT
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HAVEN, Kan. (KWCH) - Early Friday morning: Immediate evacuation orders are in place for the City of Haven after an explosion at the Haven Midstream gas plant Thursday afternoon. The evacuations were originally lifted Thursday evening, but Reno County Emergency Management put the evacuations back in place due to new concerns of additional explosions.

“Responding g fire crews were met with active flames, heavy smoke, and explosions. Emergency crews established an initial perimeter around the plant and the initial fire was mostly contained,” Reno County Emergency Management Director Adam Weishaar said in an early-Friday-morning news release.”

Reno County officials said after further inspection of the plant, they found 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of trapped liquid natural gas. They said the relief valves are compromised, which could set off another explosion.

Reno County Emergency Management said anyone within 1.5 miles of the Haven Midstream facility needs to evacuate immediately. This is for everyone west of Kansas Avenue, and is strongly recommended for those living east of Kansas Avenue. Officials said the evacuations could last up to 72 hours.

Until the concern is mitigated, K-96 will remain shut down between Haven Road and Yoder Road. As of early Friday morning, it is not safe for fire crews or anyone to be in the area due to the natural-gas-related concerns. Investigators haven’t yet determined the cause of the explosion, in which two people were injured, but are expected to be okay.

12:20 a.m. Friday: The City of Haven announced an expansion to evacuations “due to continued concerns about the gas explosion” that happened Thursday afternoon near the town.

“No matter your address, if you live within the City of Haven, it is highly recommended that you evacuate for your safety, though this evacuation is voluntary,” the city said.

Those following he recommendation to evacuate that don’t have a place to go should go to the Salvation Army at 700 N. Walnut in Hutchinson and they will direct them to a hotel. This evacuation could last up to 72 hours.

11:10 p.m. The City of Haven reported the latest evacuation impacting everyone the area west of Kansas Avenue, including those on the west side of Kansas Avenue.

“If you do not have a place to go, please go to Salvation Army at 700 N. Walnut in Hutchinson and they will direct you to a hotel. This evacuation could be up to 72 hours. We will provide additional information as it becomes available,” the city advised.

11:05 p.m. The Kansas Department of Transportation confirmed K-96 is again closed between Haven Road to the east and Yoder Road to the west and traffic is being redirected at those spots. This is due to a change in conditions involving the emergency response to explosions and a large fire near the Haven Midstream gas plant near the town of Haven.

10:45 p.m. Reno County Emergency Management confirmed a call for evacuations within at least a mile-and-a-half radius of the Haven Midstream gas plant due to concerns with natural gas lingering in the air. Crews will remain on the scene overnight, monitoring the situation that began Thursday afternoon with the explosion leading to extensive damage to two structures and injuries to two people.

10 p.m. Thursday: Emergency officials in Reno County warn of potential evacuations due to new concerns with natural gas in the air from Thursday afternoon’s explosion at the Haven Midstream Gas Plant.

Eyewitness News’ crew was asked to move from the area due to concerns of lingering natural gas in the air and with that comes word that more people could soon be asked to evacuate.

9:30 p.m. Thursday: Crews will still be monitoring the scene near Haven overnight Thursday into Friday morning after a natural gas explosion at the Haven Midstream gas plant. As of Thursday night, Reno County Emergency Management said it’s not sure what caused the explosion, but two structures at the site have extensive damage.

Gas to the plant is shut off and emergency management said the public is safe. By about 6:30 p.m., K-96 was reopened.

For some in southeast Reno County, Thursday afternoon was far from ordinary between plumes of smoke and fiery explosions. Many were caught off guard. While the situation calmed significantly by Thursday evening, it was one that caught Haven area resident Mick Hilbert by surprise.

“Big ball of flame, I would say 40-foot in diameter. It was just a wild ball,” Hilbert said.

From Eyewitness News’ SkyHawk 12, you could see some of the ground around the plant that was scorched by the explosion.

Natural gas in area raises new concerns, prompts evacuations near site of plant explosion

“That is something I’ve never seen before,” Hilbert said.

He lives on the western edge of Haven and his house faces the gas plant. It’s usually a quiet life at home for Hilbert. That’s what made Thursday’s series of events all the more dramatic.

“I was watching TV and happened to hear the fire truck and saw a huge cloud of smoke. And so I watched it for a little bit and probably three to four minutes later, it burst into flames,” Hilbert said.

He kept the camera on his phone fixed on the plant as the emergency situation continued to unfold.

“It was definitely a sight to see,” he said. “I mean, my wife kind of freaked out and didn’t know if it was going to blow and come this far toward our house or not.”

It was a situation Hilbert said he’ll never forget.

“It gets me off the couch and away from the TV. It’s different,” he said

After Thursday’s explosion, Eyewitness News head from some viewers that what happened isn’t the first gas explosion at the gas plant near Haven. We looked into our archives to find information on previous incidents. We found multiple explosions over the last 30 years. I

In 1996, a 30-inch natural gas line exploded between Haven and Burrton. One cow died. We also reported on a pipeline that ruptured in 2000. And a little before Thanksgiving in 2007, federal investigators looked into another pipeline investigation.

These incidents happened when the gas plant operated as the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company.

As for the plant itself, the Hutchinson Chamber of Commerce lists it as a cryogenic processing plant. That means the plant is used to separate natural gas from wells into different components. It does so by dropping gas to a low temperature to allow it to separate before it’s transported somewhere else through a pipeline. We’ve learned that because the line is considered an interstate line, it does not fall under the authority of the Kansas Corporation Commission, but rather the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

7:15 p.m. Update: The Reno County Emergency Management director tells the Hutch Post that there will be a large, potentially loud gas release at the site of Thursday’s explosions in Haven around 7:15 to 7:30 p.m.

Weishaar said releases from the Tenawa Gas facility are routine, but given the situation earlier in the day, he wanted to alert the public before this release.

7:10 p.m. Update: K-96 has reopened in Reno County following an explosion at the Haven Midstream gas plant near the town of Haven. Kent Road remains closed. Those who were forced to evacuate the area within a two-mile radius of the plant have also been allowed back in.

6:25 p.m. Update: Firefighters are still working to extinguish a fire that left two people injured in Reno County on Thursday. Both were taken to the hospital, but the emergency manager says their injuries are minor.

Crews were called to an explosion and fire at the Haven Midstream plant near Haven around 1:15 p.m. A two-mile radius around the plant was evacuated. While gas to the plant has been cut off but the fire is still not out.

The plant is listed as a cryogenic processing plant by the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce. The plant is used to separate natural gas that comes from wells into different components. The process involves dropping the gas to a very low temperature in order to allow for the separation before the gas is transported elsewhere by pipeline.

Because this line is considered an interstate line, it does not fall under the authority of the Kansas Corporation Commission but rather the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

We do have a call into the agency. We will continue to follow this story and bring you any new updates throughout the night.

3:50 p.m. Update: Two people have been transported to a hospital in Wichita following an explosion and fire at the Haven Midstream gas plant. Reno County Emergency Manager Adam Weishaar said they only suffered minor injuries.

Crews were called to the fire on Kent Road around 1:15 p.m. on Thursday. Weishaar said they were met with heavy smoke and flames as well as some explosions.

“The biggest difficulties, we immediately evacuated within a two-mile radius from this thing. About a half-mile away, you could feel the heat and see the smoke coming off of it, so it was imperative to get that big perimeter set up that way our units weren’t at risk, and with that, getting the gas shut off, getting close enough to those gas valves,” said Weishaar.

Tami Lindt lives just over a mile and a half away from the Haven Midstream. She was one of the homeowners who was asked to leave. She said when the initial explosion happened, everything in her house shook. Hours later, she’s still in shock after seeing the explosion.

“I was sitting in the house and all of a sudden I heard this noise that I actually thought was a jet or a giant plane above the house and then I heard an explosion and I thought something. Actually, I thought a plane had crashed and everything in the house was vibrating. I ran out of the house and flames were shooting out everywhere,” said Lindt.

She said all of her family lives in the area, so when they were asked to evacuate, she grabbed her dogs and started coming up with an escape plan.

Weishaar said the Reno County Commission signed a local disaster declaration to allow for state resources to come in and assist with the fire fight.

Units from Burrton, Colwich, McPherson, and Mt. Hope have been called in to assist with the fire. K-96 will remain closed for the next several hours to allow firefighters to transport the foam and water needed to the fire.

Crews will remain on the scene to monitor the fire. Weishaar said that at this time, there is no risk to public safety.

Update: USD 312 Haven Schools says it is keeping students in place while firefighters work to respond to the fire and explosion at the gas plant in town. The district said parents can come to pick up their students, but students will be bussed as normal when the time comes.

Firefighters are responding to a large explosion and fire at Haven Midstream northwest of Wichita.

Reno County dispatchers say K-96 is closed east of Yoder and east of Haven.

The City of Haven says it is absolutely imperative that people avoid the area.

Those within Haven City limits are not being evacuated at this time. Evacuations at the Haven Steel plant.

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