The Today Show tracked down the Texas father who shot that now iconic video of the West fertilizer plant explosion — the one where you can hear his daughter screaming and pleading with him to leave after the explosion happens. Derrick Hurtt and his family were within 300 yards of the factory when it went up. They were there specifically to shoot some video of the burning plant. Hurtt's 12-year-old daughter, who says after the explosion that she can't hear anything, has regained her hearing. Read the rest
Fertilizer can explode*. We all know that. It was a key ingredient in the bomb that destroyed Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. Last night, a factory full of the stuff went up with enough force that United States Geological Survey seismographs registered it as a magnitude 2.1 earthquake.
Ammonium nitrate is the chemical that makes these dramatic displays possible. But creating an explosion isn't as simple as just having a pile of ammonium nitrate — let alone a pile of fertilizer — sitting around. We've come to think of this as pretty volatile stuff. But, according to chemist Jimmie Oxley, ammonium nitrate is a lot less dangerous than you might guess. Despite a history of high-profile explosions, like the one that happened last night, ammonium nitrate isn't considered to be that big of a danger. In fact, Oxley called it a "marginal explosive" — a chemical that is mostly safe, but can become dangerous when the conditions are just right. Read the rest