CHARTIERS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Several residents were evacuated from their homes Wednesday evening as a precautionary measure after a plant in Washington County was struck by lightning.
According to plant officials, it happened as severe weather was moving through the area around 6 p.m. at the MarkWest Energy plant off of Route 519 in Chartiers Township.
Neighbors who lived near the plant were ordered out of their homes by police and firefighters, and roads were blocked off for hours.
“There was a lightning strike over at the processing plant,” added Anthony Mankey, a neighbor. “First, we heard it hit a transformer and it was on fire, and then they said we had to leave because they were just precautionary measures.”
MarkWest officials say, after the lightning strike, emergency responders were brought in to set up a perimeter around the plant.
“At this point in time, it’s precautionary,” said John Marcischak, the Chartiers Valley supervisor. “I have not gotten any reports that there’s any injuries. In fact, I got a report saying there were no injuries.”
Several dozen evacuees gathered at the Chartiers Township Volunteer Fire Station, and waited out the evacuation.
“I was at the Vo Tech center and the fire department came in and they evacuated the school, and they just told us that they think that it has the potential to be bad and they are evacuating the whole road,” said Zach Bitz, a Chartiers Township resident.
Clutching her small dog, Harley Edlund told KDKA-TV she was outside and saw lightning hit the plant, followed by a fire and a loud hissing sound.
“We were actually outside watching the lightning storm and we didn’t think anything of it and you could hear the high pressure letting out,” said Edlund, an evacuee.
KDKA heard complaints there about the lack of a clear evacuation plan, and some confusion because people didn’t know what had actually happened and weren’t getting straight answers.
Meanwhile, the plant was shut down until officials can complete an inspection.
There were no injuries in the incident.
The company issued a statement tonight saying all employees and contractors were accounted for. The statement from MarkWest Energy Partners spokesman Robert McHale reads, in part:
“MarkWest has highly trained personnel on-site working with first responders and will continue to monitor the situation.
“First responders have secured a perimeter and out of an abundance of caution, several residents have relocated to a local community center. MarkWest has an employee at this location and will work with these residents to ensure that accommodations are made until they can return to their homes.
“We thank the first responders for their professionalism and will provide updates as more information becomes available.”
The evacuation order was lifted late Wednesday night.