Texas March 05, 2018
One Of The Deadliest Accidents In U.S. History Happened Right Here In Texas
The rise of industry was an integral part in the development of our state, but sometimes those endeavors come at a tragic cost. On the fateful day of April 16, 1947, an explosion whose effects would be felt for decades occurred in the Port of Texas City. To this day, it is still recognized as the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history and one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever to take place.
The ammonium nitrate on the Grandcamp was mixed with clay, petrolatum, rosin, and paraffin wax to prevent moisture caking during shipment. It was also transported and stored at high temperatures that allowed chemical activity to increase.
At about 8am, smoke started to accumulate in the ship's cargo hold. Crew members attempted to extinguish the fire for the next hour, but their efforts were futile.
Their next tactic was to pipe steam into the midst of the billows to put out the fire while preserving cargo. This was also ineffective - ammonium nitrate produces its own oxygen, so dousing it with steam actually contributed to the tragedy by converting the gas to nitrous oxide.
Unfortunately, the fire drew a dense crowd of spectators who believed they were at a safe distance to witness the flames. This was all but true, and by the time anyone realized it, water around the ship was already beginning to boil and the cargo hold starting to bulge.
At around 9am, the unthinkable happened. The ship detonated, sending out a 15-foot wave detectable nearly 100 miles off the Texas shoreline. About 1,000 buildings, as well as the Monsanto Chemical Company plant, were leveled.
People fell to their knees 10 miles away in Galveston, and the shock was felt as far as 250 miles away in Louisiana. 567 people died as a result of the explosion, including the entire crew of the Grandcamp and all but one member of the Texas City Volunteer Fire Department.
To this day, nobody can say for sure what ignited the ammonium nitrate - it could've been something as trivial as a tossed cigarette. Regardless of how it began, it's the worst industrial accident in U.S. history, and all the victims deserve to have their story told.
Were any of your family members or friends affected by the Texas City disaster? Let us know your experiences.
To learn about more man-made disasters in Texas, read our previous article:
The 11 Most Horrifying Disasters That Ever Happened In Texas.