CHEROKEE -- An explosion that could be felt in most of the Shoals blew the roof off the area of the nitrate plant where workers make ammonia, injuring one employee, officials said Tuesday night.
The explosion was reported at 10:10 p.m., startling Cherokee residents and rattling homes throughout Colbert County and as far into Lauderdale County as Killen and Zip City.
Nancy Giles, who lives about 5 miles south of the plant, said her husband was once a plant manager at the nitrate plant. When they heard the explosion, she said he immediately knew what had occurred.
“When we heard it, it scared us to death," she said.
The explosion did not result in a fire at the plant and emergency crews soon reported that all employees at the plant had been accounted for. The injured employee was taken to Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield. His identity and condition were unavailable late Tuesday night.
R.J. Lambert, who lives off U.S. 72 in Cherokee, said he was still awake at the time of the explosion and went outside when he hear it. He said he could tell it came from the nitrate plant.
“It rattled the whole house,” he said Tuesday night as emergency crews were clearing the scene. “It rattled every house in Cherokee.”
According to company information from its website, in November 2000, El Dorado Nitrogen, of El Dorado, Ark., acquired the Cherokee manufacturing plant from LaRoche Industries. El Dorado Nitrogen is a subsidiary of LSB Industries, headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla. The plant in Colbert County operates as Cherokee Nitrogen Division and produces ammonia, regular nitric acid, ammonium nitrate solution and prill, and other ammonia-related solutions. The plant also produces high purity ammonia for refrigeration and metallurgical applications.
TimesDaily Senior Staff Writer Tom Smith and Staff Writer Bernie Delinski contributed to this report.