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March 22, 2019 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Hazy thinkin’. Smokin’ opportunities

Woman struggling. King Kong 1933 French movie poster. RKO Radio Pictures/Roland Coudon/USPD ., artist life/

Many were about to suggest this as a plan Tuesday morning.(King Kong 1933 French movie poster/USPD/

Wondered if they finally had resorted to tossing in fair maidens into the flames. The sky was cloudless and so blue. 

It’s been a little like Keystone Cops since 9:30 am Sunday morning when a guy in a pickup truck called in the 911 about a huge fire at the ITC tank farm in Deer Park. (What? 30 company employees on site and not one noticed?)

News conferences featured an ITC spokeswoman, who repeatedly and endlessly thanked everyone for their support (like a kid saying “Goodnight, Moon” to every darn thing in his room to avoid going to bed) rather than giving precise information. “Oh, this is about as harmful as a grass fire or your grilling ashes….but do not touch any of those palm sized ashes on the ground or cars. Call us…” (You have to worry about local organic farms.)

Normally when there’s a big ship channel incident, almost instantly the company’s CEO appears in person, speaking seriously – usually with a European accent. ITC’s parent company, Mitsui, is Japanese – quite diverse and with deep pockets. Guess that CEO was busy fighting other Godzillas.

When the  company hired Louisiana specialist team arrive late Monday, there was hope. Only by Tuesday morning the fire had doubled and was much, much worse – overwhelming the “specialists”. (Luckily the wind was blowing away from us). Late Tues afternoon the FEMA Incident Director in charge (What? FEMA’s usual business is handing out/rejecting forms after hurricanes. Certainly not qualified to direct petro/chemical industry fire suppression) was unceremoniously shoved stepped aside allowing the Ship Channel Mutual Aid to take command. Finally.

Vessels and tank farm under ITC fire smoke plume on Monday (Marie D. De Jesus, Houston Chronicle photographer)

Ship Channel vessels docked and tank farm not far away under ITC Deer Park fire on Monday (Marie D. De Jesus, Houston Chronicle)

By 3 am Wed. morning, the fire was quiet. Air quality was yellow “moderate” as the winds died and the particulate matter/smoke just hung there. An unexpected fireball flame-up during evening news, but in 10 min., squashed. Mutual Aid knows what they are doing.

Hazy Thurs, but we’ll take that. (Not the benzene release, though.)

Next is the analysis and excuses…like why wouldn’t they release the air quality data until almost 2 days later (“…safe for most people” and “We want to analyze the data before releasing it as we don’t want to scare people…” “And you people stop reading and writing about this fire online in blogs and on Facebook!!!” – So, of course, you know how everyone took that…)

View of industrial/chemical complexes on Houston Ship Channel viewed from Sam Houston boat tour(Thomas B. Shea)

On a normal day, tourists board the Sam Houston boat and tour the Ship Channel to see and wonder at the refineries, docks, industrial/chemical complexes along Houston Ship Channel’s banks (Thomas B. Shea)

Boats. Ocean going tanker docked on Houston Ship Channel (Thomas B. Shea)

And yes, giant ocean-going vessels share the road with leisure craft. Insisting on right of way isn’t always the smartest idea as the big ships really can’t stop or maneuver outside their deeply dredged lanes. Here’s a docked tanker docked with warehouse and tank farm behind and to the right of it. (Thomas B. Shea)

People are in such a frenzy these days about disasters and the world ending.

Over population shouldn’t be a big worry as Nature seems to calculate and move in with a plague, flu, virus, or something to manage that.

But heavy smoke and blackened sky has spelled doom before. Lacking telegraph, Facebook, or Twitter, the entire world was caught by surprise.

On April 10, 1815, Mount Tambora, (Dutch West Indies/Indonesia) erupted in one of the most powerful, most violent blast the earth has survived.

Eruptions continued for three years. There are many written accounts; even Thomas Jefferson whose crops failed, wrote about the brutal year.

Few realized at the time that the volcano’s eruptions were connected to the lack of sun, the drastic climate chill, the failure of crops world-wide and what came to be called the “Poverty Year”, the “Eighteen Hundred and  Froze To Death” and the 1816 “Year without a summer”.

Quoted from WIKI: “This brief period of significant climate triggered extreme weather and harvest failures in many areas around the world. Several climate forcings coincided and interacted in a systematic manner that has not been observed after any other large volcanic eruption since the early Stone Age. Although scientists have proven that the post-eruption climate changes and the Tambora eruption are linked, they have only an incomplete understanding of the processes involved.”

It appears we still don’t know what triggered what or the complete domino effect.

Another article: “Peculiar disaster of 1816”

Man and woman fighting. (Universal Films, 1921/Exhibitors Herald 1921-1922/, artist life/

“No, you Dunderhead. I am not volunteering.” (USPD/

While humans struggled to adapt to what was beyond their understanding and control, some fields still saw advances:

  • Art: Inspired by the volcanic induced haze, dry fog, and spectacular light reflecting particle sunsets, J.M.W. Turner’s paintings are lauded for his shimmering, atmospheric studies of light. He became the  vanguard of English painting and strongly influenced impressionist artists, particularly Monet,  in France.
  • Transportation:  Unable to grow crops meant no feed for horses. During this time, German inventor Baron Karl Drais started working on horseless transportation. His invention of the Draisine or the Velocipede, moved people towards mechanized personal transport.
  • Population shift towards the American Heartland:  Crop failures in the Eastern seaboard states sent large numbers of people/desperate farm families searching for a better climate, richer soil, and better growing conditions. They moved to western New York and to the Territory to the Northwest of the River Ohio (Areas basically included everything east of the Mississippi from New Orleans to Canada. Much of which was occupied by Native Americans, so conflicts increased.)
  • Social equality: Lawrence Goldman, British historian, studied the migration into the western and central regions of New York where there was a great religious awakening which was quite fervent. He concluded social /cultural changes can be traced to people’s response to the disaster.  The “Burned-over district” of religious revival was a hot bed of reform movements including those for women’s rights, abolishing slavery, and utopian societies.
  • Founding of new religious community. Vermont lost a huge number of residents seeking a better life. Joseph Smith’s family moved into the Burned-over District where he had a spiritual wakening and after a series of events he wrote and published the Book of Mormon, and the founded of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.
  • Literature:  June, 1816, was a terrible Spring Break and summer vacation for Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and John W. Polidori who were stuck inside at a villa overlooking Lake Geneva.  These writers produced some classic scary stories during a contest: Frankenstein (The Modern Prometheus) By Mary,  “A Fragment” by Byron (which became Polidori’s inspiration for “The Vampire” which preceded “Dracula”), and the poem “Darkness” also by Byron.
  • Agriculture:  Having experienced famine as a child in Germany, Justus von Liebig became a chemist who studied plant nutrition and introduced mineral fertilizers.

Maybe we’re looking at disasters all wrong. Possibly great opportunities instead.

Be the Mary, or Karl, or Justus.

Be the Little Red Hen and not Henny Penny/ Chicken Little or the peeps who are clucking things up.

As always,

Any day you wake up is a good day. (Wisdom offered from an old farm boy and ancient relative)

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Adapt or die.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

Postcard with bears, geysers, Yellowstone (TIchnor Bro./ USPD., artist life/

If Yellowstone’s supervolcano erupts, then immigration will be the least of our worries. Read the what if it happens here. More speculation from Nat. Geo. here.(USPD/



Leave a Comment
  1. Kate Crimmins / Mar 22 2019 9:41 am

    A very thoughtful post. It can always be worse. Glad it’s over for you. Hope they find an answer or solution to prevent or shorten these events in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Mar 22 2019 11:18 am

      Multiple school districts are not in session as benzene release happened again last night.
      It was baffling why the company didn’t let the Ship Channel experts immediately take command, – and why the company delayed notification/didn’t know the fire had even started. It’s still Laurel and Hardy show here – the website for claims was up for a long time before a news reporter pointed out the site was not secure and third parties (probably lawyers HAHA) were easily accessing people’s information. And now the city/county/company had to admit their “air quality” data did not show benzene levels…the dangerous cancer causing agent.
      It will come down eventually to human error, somebody not doing their job, company placing more emphasis on profit than safety of area.
      But, hey, it’s not a long term, climate changing volcano, right?
      Thanks for adding a comment to soothe the tank farm blues

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ally Bean / Mar 22 2019 4:25 pm

    You and I think alike. I don’t always see the doom in things as quickly as do other people. I tend to think [to myself usually] that there is something to be learned here and that we can now get better by moving forward beyond the disaster du jour. In other words adapt, baby. I remember learning about the year without a summer but hadn’t thought of it in years. Good analogy that makes me wonder if we really know what’s going on.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Mar 22 2019 4:45 pm

      Well, the darn fire has reignited with 2 tanks blazing about an hour ago. Last night there was a benzene release (one side product of one of the tanks chemicals when heated is benzene – which is really nasty/harmful),so many school districts closed for today. It’s beginning to remind me of the Springfield tire dump fire on the Simpsons. HAHA (wind is blowing away from us) OK, it’ll be funny down the road- not really now.
      The debriefing will be interesting once it’s done.
      It must be rare to think long term and use gather information for next time.
      I was really intrigued by the big cultural/social changes that volcano disaster seems to have produced – guess all the possible connections weren’t covered in school. I managed to stumble across a big exhibit of Turner’s paintings when I was traveling after college. Those paintings are massive in size with is impressive, but also the way he painted light, fog, the skies is phenomenal. Now I can really see the influence in his paintings of the “dry fog’ and haze that covered that part of the world for so long. Easy to get lost in exploring the mysteries of the past – which influence more than we realize today?
      Anyway – thanks for tromping through the fog of words here. Enjoy the weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Curt Mekemson / Mar 23 2019 10:23 am

    Good post, Phil. Natural disasters are one thing. Not much we can do there other than adapt. But human caused disasters are another ball of wax, or is that pile of doo-doo. Burning petroleum storage facilities and crashing planes share a lot in common— with greed and coverup being among the biggies. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Mar 23 2019 11:06 am

      Humans are smart – if they want to be. Although not yet able to understand really long term with all the interconnectivity. Progress so often distracted by human nature of those having given up controlling nature and seeking to control other humans instead.
      Learn to utilize the any disaster as catalyst and catapult on down the road…or else.
      (Although not petroleum, the assorted chemicals in that tank farm have proven to be stubborn and once free are resisting human control. Gas prices will rise as usual as the mandated Spring Blends are refined, Venezuela’s situation is not resolved/oil available to the open market, and hey, people won’t know the difference – raise the prices because the public won’t understand those tanks aren’t destined for gasoline refineries)
      Gads.We can do better. Walk gently and use only what you need..and darn it, turn off that overload of lights at night. Confuses the migrating birds and nocturnal hunters…and hides the guiding stars.
      Would hate for Dark Skies to return out of stupidity and greed
      Thanks for hiking over here to chat!


  4. LordBeariOfBow / Apr 5 2019 11:54 pm

    I assure you that I am in no way related to said Joseph Smith!
    That Fire must have been a dandy, loved to have witnessed it 🙂
    But then it’s been established that I’m considered odd!


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