A gas pipeline has exploded in Ellis County – and evacuations are underway.
Update, 2:54 p.m.: KERA's BJ Austin reports: Emergency crews called for the evacuation of Milford because of the thick, black, low-hanging smoke blowing that way.
Steve Fano with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth says an inversion – warm air on top of colder air – was acting like a lid.
"Basically, that was keeping the smoke relatively close the ground,” he said. “The good news is as we’ve progressed through the day that layer of warm air has kind of mixed down. So basically what’s happens is the smoke was allowed to go further into the air and disperse more.”
Fano says the same inversion could happen Friday morning, trapping smoke that may still be rising from the site.
Preliminary tests by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality indicate the smoke is non-toxic, but officials advise people to avoid it.
Ellis County Judge Carol Bush says the evacuation order will likely remain in place for 24 hours.
Update, 12:57 p.m.: A Chevron gas pipeline has exploded in rural North Texas and the company asked local emergency personnel to evacuate a nearby town.
The Ellis County Sheriff's Office says the explosion occurred about 9:30 a.m. Thursday at a rig near Milford, about 50 miles south of Dallas. Chevron spokesman Justin Higgs says the accident involves a liquefied petroleum gas pipeline.
Flames could be seen shooting into the air and some vehicles at the worksite burned.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Jo Ann Livingston says authorities have not received any word of injuries.
Lt. James Saulter said deputies were going door-to-door in Milford, advising people in the town of about 700 to leave.
Milford school Superintendent Don Clingenpeel says all students and staff were being evacuated to the nearby town of Italy.
Update, 11:52 a.m.: KERA’s BJ Austin has the latest: The entire town of Milford, population 700, is evacuated because of the pipeline explosion. Residents have been bussed to nearby Italy in southwest Ellis County. Terry Murdoch works at Italy City Hall.
“Right now the school has opened up the dome for evacuation of Milford – the basketball stadium," Murdoch said. "And our fire department’s out there. Our police officers are out there. We’ve got a police officer that’s going to be stationed at the dome for crowd control. We’re doing mutual aid."
Milford is a mile from the explosion – an active drilling site. Italy is 8 miles away, and Murdoch says they can smell the fumes in the thick black smoke billowing in their direction.
So far, no injuries have been reported TxDOT is assisting with detours. The explosion site is near U.S. 77 and Intersate 35-East, where motorists are getting a dramatic view of the black smoke that can be seen for miles.
Emergency officials say the gas to the pipeline has been shut off, and the fire will be allowed to burn itself out.
Original post: Milford residents are being evacuated to nearby Italy due in part to the fumes. They are being sent to the Dome, a basketball stadium. It’s not known how many will show up, so area churches are opening their doors, too.
The Italy volunteer fire department is out at the scene. Italy is about 8 miles away from the explosion.
The explosion is about 50 miles south of Dallas.