Superior refinery evacuated amid concerns that tower might fall

Authorities say there's no threat to public safety

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An oil refinery undergoing clean-up efforts.
Demolition and cleanup efforts were ongoing at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior in this view from September 2019.
Courtesy of Danielle Kaeding | Wisconsin Public Radio

Workers at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior, Wis., were evacuated Thursday because of concerns a tower at the facility might fall.

Stinson Avenue, which runs alongside the refinery, was closed to traffic as a precaution. Superior police said there is no threat to public safety.

The Superior refinery has been undergoing rebuilding in the wake of major damage from an explosion and fire in April 2018 that prompted a widespread evacuation of the surrounding area.

According to police on Thursday, "while crews were working on a tower located on the south side of the Husky refinery they reported hearing a 'pop' and subsequently noted a defect in the tower’s structural integrity."

Husky Energy reported that the tower was moving in the wind. The National Weather Service reported that southwest winds were gusting in excess of 20 mph at the nearby Superior airport on Thursday afternoon.

"Out of an abundance of caution we have removed personnel from site and closed a section of Stinson Avenue to traffic," the company said in a statement. "We will be developing a plan to investigate an appropriate path forward."

Police said electric and gas service to the refinery was turned off.

"At this time there is no risk of fire, explosion, release of any chemical, or other danger to the public," police said in a news release. "To be clear, even in a scenario where the tower collapses there is nothing around the tower which could be struck which would cause a danger to the community."

Authorities said it was not clear Thursday evening when Stinson Avenue would reopen to traffic.

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