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Port officials were ready when they needed to be

Port of Corpus Christi mobilized for explosion
Posted at 5:43 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 20:30:36-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Aug. 21 is a day many with the Port of Corpus Christi and local area emergency response teams won't soon forget.

The Corpus Christi skyline was filed with smoke after a dredge working along the port's Inner Harbor struck a natural gas pipeline.

The accident claimed multiple lives and injured several others. It's an incident port officials and otherresponding agencies plan for but hope never plays out.

"This was a very sobering incident," Port of Corpus Christi CEO Sean Strawbridge said. "One of the worst in my 30-year career, in terms of injury and loss of life."

Strawbridge described an explosion that rocked the port's Inner Harbor around 8 a.m. on that Friday.

The Waymon L Boyd, a dredging vessel owned by Houston based marine construction contractor Orion Marine Group, struck a submerged natural gas pipeline. The explosion claimed the lives of four crew members and sent six others to area hospitals with severe burns.

But it was the response by the port's Emergency Management Team and the collaboration with local and federal agencies that rose to the occasion.

"Multiple notifications are occurring simultaneously and what we do in our response procedures is quickly collect that information and try and make a good understanding of what the situation is, who's responding, who's responsible and what are those next critical actions," said Port of C.C. Emergency Management Manager Danielle Hale.

The port's security team is the first to deploy in any situation, whether it's the land patrol, marine patrol, or the 300-plus camera surveillance system. Once eyes are on the situation and an assessment is made, the incident management team is carried out. A command center is then quickly set up so all agencies involved can communicate.

"No single agency has all the resources available to it, so that's why we have to work closely with federal, state and local partners," Strawbridge said.

Whether it's the U.S. Coast Guard, the TCEQ or the Corpus Christi Fire Department, it's imperative for all involved to collaborate, communicate, and cooperate, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

More than 50 agencies responded to the pipeline explosion setting a lot of wheels in motion. Despite training for different emergency scenarios, it's often after tragic accidents when the most lessons are learned.

"Several years ago we enhanced our emergency management capabilities," Hale said. "We enhance our planning, our participation at the community level with the port users and the cities and counties they operate in."

All of which proved the Port of Corpus Christi's Emergency Management team is well equipped and able to handle whatever major incident may come its way.