Lightning investigated as cause of oil tank explosions in Louisiana

Lightning investigated as cause of oil tank explosions in Louisiana, Lightning is being investigated as a potential cause of a series of two oil tank explosions, that forced the evacuation of more than two dozen homes in Louisiana Thursday night.

Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness director Mark Harrell said the cause of the explosions at a storage facility near the town of Denham Springs, just outside of Baton Rouge, remained under investigation Friday (May 3) by the state fire marshal's office. But he said residents reported seeing a lightning strike just before the first blast, WAFB-TV reported.

Scattered rain and thunderstorms were moving across parts of southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi in association with an upper-level low pressure area Thursday night.

The first oil tank explosion happened around 10:30 p.m. CDT Thursday and that fire later sparked the second oil tank explosion at around 4:30 a.m. CDT Friday.

About 2,300 barrels of oil, which is more than 96,000 gallons of crude, were inside the two tanks that burned. The oil is what leaked out of the tanks and the vapor from it was fueling the fires.

Harrell said it was contained to a 125-square-foot area and wasn't a threat to spread to nearby homes. The oil fires were extinguished late Friday afternoon and no one was injured.

While the evacuation orders have been lifted for the area, the Department of Environmental Quality will remain on site over the next few days to monitor the air quality from the fumes. Crews say they will being the cleanup process Saturday.

Plano, Texas-based Denbury Resources Inc. owns the facility where the tanks are located.

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