KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Eastman Chemical Company reported a “high pressure steam line failure” at the northeast side of its complex produced an explosion-like sound in Kingsport Monday morning. The sound was heard from miles away.
According to a release from Eastman, the steam line failure shook Kingsport at 7:30 a.m. The company revealed at 10:09 a.m. that five people were minorly injured during the incident and received treatment from Eastman Medical or at Holston Valley Medical Center (HVMC).
Eastman also released that there was no fire on Monday morning, and the incident is “now under control.” The steam line failure led to power outages to some portions of the site, and lockdowns followed to keep personnel in the area safe.
The company revealed at noon that it has shut down its manufacturing operations in accordance with Eastman’s safety procedures.
Shortly after 3 p.m. spokespeople for Eastman held a briefing regarding the incident. You can watch News Channel 11’s stream of that briefing below:
As power is restored, the community can expect to see some steam venting, which may be heard throughout the surrounding community. Eastman assured the public that the venting is a normal part of steam power restoration, and it does not pose a threat.
Viewer messages and calls flooded into the News Channel 11 newsroom, reporting accounts of what appeared to be smoke or steam and an explosion of noise in the Eastman Chemical Company area, as well as ground vibrations.
The steam line failure also resulted in the “release of small particle debris that can occur with utility line disruptions,” according to Eastman.
A media advisory released nearly 90 minutes after the incident stated vibrations and loud noises “from a consistent heavy release of steam” were heard and felt by residents in the area.
Debris following the incident can be seen throughout the area.
Sirens at Eastman revealed that three buildings were impacted by the incident.
Ballad Health officials said that the health system had established an incident command at HVMC shortly after the incident and dispatched helicopters for the chance of major injuries.
KFD had an engine, a ladder company and a command vehicle at the scene. Eastman’s release stated its own fire department is assessing the situation with assistance from KFD. According to the Kingsport Fire Department (KFD), the agency responded to Eastman at 7:45 a.m. after the company requested the fire department on standby.
Justin Murray works for Kingsport’s water department and was inside a city building on Konnarock Road — about a quarter-mile from Eastman’s property.
“It rattled the windows in the warehouse,” Murray said. “It was a loud explosion, and then we walked outside, and you could hear the echo for probably 15 seconds.”
For the next 15 minutes or so, Murray said, sounds continued from what he described as a “loud steam release.”
Russ and Amy Jowers were completing a morning run near their home more than five miles west and north of Eastman’s complex when they heard the initial sound.
“It just was a huge rumble,” Amy Jowers said.
She said the couple has lived near military bases, and it seemed reminiscent at first.
“It sort of sounded like it could have been a big cargo plane, but then it went on and on and on,” she said. “It just sounded really, really loud and I could feel a little tremor in the ground.”
Russ Jowers went back outside about five minutes after the couple stepped into their home, and the sound had not abated.
“We’re just praying that people are safe,” Amy Jowers said.
News Channel 11 viewers have claimed to have heard the incident from as far away as Piney Flats and Johnson City.
On Friday, Jan. 28, a steam plume was seen rising over Eastman, which spokespeople said was a “small heat transfer fluid leak.”
News Channel 11 has a crew at the scene. This is a developing story. Stay updated on-air and online at WJHL.com.