DULUTH, MN — Dozens of viewers have described where they were and what they were doing when they found out about the explosion and fire at the Husky Energy refinery in Superior in April 2018.
Some viewers said they could hear the explosion or could feel the warm air move past them in the moments after.
Read the memories below:
“I was sitting in my house which is about 2 miles from the refinery and all of a sudden it sounded like something had hit the roof of my house and I went outside and all my neighbors were coming out because they heard the same thing and then we saw the black smoke coming from the refinery.”
“Downtown Duluth when I saw the smoke, heard the news immediately after on Facebook. Most of the town was in a panic.”
“I was in class at WITC when we heard we had to evacuate.”“I was working at the high school that morning when I felt the warm blast hit my face. After we were evacuated, I watched the flames and smoke ride for a while.”“My boyfriend woke me up in the afternoon asking if my work would be open. I would have been scheduled to close that day, but we were within the evacuation area so my work closed early. We then proceeded to evacuate to Duluth to hang at the mall and what not until things settled down, then realized that Superior wasn’t gonna blow up and proceeded to return home.”“I was at work at AMSOIL, corporate office on Tower Ave. It was “Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day” and I had my then 8 year old daughter with me. The first indication was a text from my husband, who was at our home in East Superior, asking if I heard an explosion. He said it was so loud and close that our house shook and our dog was in panic mode. A few more minutes passed and I started getting calls, texts and emails from my Daughter’s school explaining there was an explosion at husky, followed up with it was under control. Everyone carried on with work then proceeded to a pizza lunch over at the AMSOIL Center. As we were leaving the luncheon a co-worker mentioned there was another explosion. My daughter and I headed to our house, still not really knowing what was going on. You could see a huge plume of smoke on the drive home, which was humongous by the time we reached our house. We live within a mile of the refinery. The plan was to pack a few things, grab the kids and dog then head to my mother in law’s house in South Range. Unfortunately, due to the evacuation zone we learned we couldn’t go that route. We were trying to figure out where to go while we packed everyone into the car and a gentlemen came through our alley in a truck and said “you have to get out of here now!” I replied we were on our way out and commented how that smoke plume didn’t look good. He replied that it was not good, he was working there when it happened and that police would be coming around to evacuate our area very soon. We decided to head back to North Superior to my parent’s house, which was out of the evacuation zone, to figure out our next move. We were stuck in stand still traffic forever, what would have normally been a 10 minute drive on a bad day took us 45 minutes. It was chaos. Pedestrian and police cars driving over curbs to try to get around the traffic, people yelling, etc. Finally we reached a point where police officers were directing traffic, thankfully, otherwise that trip would have taken even longer. We were unable to find a room anywhere so we waited it out until the mayor said the fire was out and that the evacuation order would be lifted at 9. Then it reignited… again… We were up most of the night just waiting to see if/when we could go home. By 6 a.m. we had gotten the all clear and back to business as normal. The Superior school district did an excellent job with communicating status updates. Without their notifications, no access to television, we wouldn’t have had a clue as to what was going on.”“I was at my workplace just outside of the evacuation zone. I remember our patrons coming in and out of the store talking about it – and then I remembered growing up and hearing “if that plant catches on fire and blows up, it’ll level all of Superior and half of Duluth”. That was the only thing on my mind. But we were just outside of the evacuation zone, and my boss didn’t want us to leave.”“I was welding at work in south end superior and thought a very large truck hit the side of the building. Couldn’t figure out what it was til eventually I saw the black smoke.”“St. Paul MN for training. My coworker, Director of Operations let me know of the incident (and kept me up to date) which the Duluth Transit Authority (where I work) helped with evacuation. I felt so guilty not being there to help, thankful to get home that night, although speechless topping the hill seeing the fire but ready for the next day evacuation if the winds switched again. Thankfully it was done that night.”“I was at work… Bryant Elementary. I remember the students walking out of the building to get on buses with their shirts pulled up to cover their noses and mouths and the black smoke in the background.”“At a job interview, I was hired on the spot. I was so excited and then I came out of the HR office and someone said the refinery exploded, my heart sank. It was a bitter sweet day for me.”“I remember that I had worked at UWS earlier that day, then had gone to class. On the way to that class I saw the black smoke cloud, but I thought somebody was having a huge bonfire. In the middle of class I had gotten a text from the alert system that an evacuation was starting and that we needed to leave Superior. I went home to grab my cats before heading over to Duluth to pick up my fiance from work and head to a hotel his workplace provided for us for the night since we weren’t allowed back into Superior until late that night.”“I was working in the ED at St. Mary’s Hospital, in Superior, actually. I had no idea there was a problem until I got a call from our Department Chair, who alerted me to the event. Within minutes we had staff and administrators at the ready to help coordinate care for the potential MCI, and ultimately, help to evacuate the hospital, when this became necessary.”“At work! Nanny of three under three at the time. All I could think about was what I needed to do to keep the children safe and how to get home and make sure my dog was okay.”“I was at work less then a mile away had to evacuate my residents.”“I was 6 or 7 months pregnant and had just returned home from working a 12-hour overnight shift at work when the first fire started. I tried to get some sleep as I was due back at work again that night. About an hour later my partner woke me up saying we needed to leave. I didn’t want to leave. I was crabby and exhausted and so miserably pregnant. But the smell burned my throat and eyes. I put on a cheap respirator mask I had laying around to use if I needed to clean anything with chemicals while pregnant. We were kind of shocked that we were actually looking at needing to evacuate our home. We weren’t really sure where we could take ourselves and our dog and two cats, but we were very happy the baby wasn’t here yet. Even though I was very worried what the effects of breathing that in could have on our unborn child. We went to a hotel in Cloquet with all of our animals. Every car in the parking lot there has WI plates. The hotel was full of people and their animals. It was kind of nice being around other displaced families. I called into work that night. It was an expensive trip for us. The hotel room was over $100, I missed out on over $100 in wages. We needed to eat out and purchase a second cat carrier and litter box for the hotel room. I was relieved when we got to go home the next day but didn’t feel as safe in my home as I did the day before the fire. The haze around the city, and what drifted to nearby towns made me feel so sad for our communities. That shouldn’t have happened.”“I was working at happy hearts daycare in Superior. The first explosion sounded like 2 trains crashing into each other. I remember seeing a huge cloud of black some.. we convinced the preschoolers it was just a dragon coming to say hi until we knew what was really going on.”“I was in my house cleaning and I heard a big loud noise and the the power went out and can back on I went out side to see and there was a big black cloud of smoke I called 9-1-1. Then after my son got home I got a call from my son bus driver to leave my house. Packed my son up with my dog and headed to Duluth. Stayed at Holiday Inn in Duluth for free.”“I was currently in training for my new job. I work at untied health group. And from there we could see the smoke crawling across the horizon. Our trainer’s husband was working at the railroad there as well as her family was close by. My step mothers dad was also at the railroad so I was in contact with her to make sure he was okay. We spent most of the day watching the news and had a few people leaving to make sure everyone was evacuated and safe.”“It was my birthday, my entire family was in Esko and I was stuck in LN when got out of NHS early.”“I was at home in West Duluth. Most importantly I remember: 1) not hearing our emergency sirens go off to warn residents that a severe crisis was developing in our community. 2) Duluth Mayor not giving clear instructions, a street address, to shelter in place. Not everyone knows where Duluth Ore Docks are located. We need improvements.”“Live about 3 miles away, didn’t hear a thing lol!”“I was in Las Vegas for a bachelor party, before I went to bed I saw the story run across my Facebook feed. I remember my stomach sinking after reading that there were multiple casualties, usually when that word is used it is associated with death. Thankful to find out that the people working that day were only injured, poor choice of wording by the news outlets.”“This is a day I will never forget. I was teaching my third grade class at Great Lakes Elementary when the explosion shook our entire building. Our school was evacuated to Amsoil because of our close proximity to Husky refinery. Finally, after all my students were picked up I was able to head back to my house by the golf course.”“I was at work in Duluth and could hear and see the fire from the window. On the way home I called my friends who were in Superior to make sure they were okay, since they only lived a couple blocks away. No hotel could take them with their cats, so they stayed with me until they could go home.”“I was at work at St. Luke’s Hospital preparing for mass casualties. I remember being shocked and just ready to help if needed.”“I was at home in Superior when the first explosion happened. I immediately texted my boyfriend, at 10 am exactly. Husky has since said the first explosion happened at 10:06. I have never been able to figure out why they have the time wrong.”“I was at the Red Mug doing homework and final projects for school when I got a call from the school saying there was a fire at the refinery, but everything was still considered safe. I picked my son up from 4k at the YMCA and then my other little man from daycare afterwards. After picking my youngest up from daycare I drove up to 28th street from Hammond and 21st and saw the massive wall of black smoke from the second explosion. My husband immediately packed up what he was doing at work because he was working on a house in South End and felt the 2nd explosion. We didn’t wait for the evacuation or school closure notices, my husband went straight to the school to pick our daughter and I went home with the boys to pack. We packed up our pets and everything we thought we needed and headed out of town towards Barnes, WI.”“Started out at VA over in Superior they told us to stay inside. After a bit they told us to go home so I came across the bridge and got my mom’s sisters all 3 of them And went to park point to watch it !!!” Joel Heller Duluth Mn“I was at school, and I remember looking from a balcony watching the smoke billowing into the sky. Also many people were live streaming the news about it as well. Some friends of mine had to be evacuated from their homes and others around me were worried about loved ones who were near or working in the refinery.”“It was an overcast morning. I was at Menards in Superior in their yard picking up a couple rolls of field fencing. I had a straight view to the stack.. we felt the impact of the explosion standing there. I didn’t know what was going on? I asked the kid that was loading me if that was normal? He said he’s never heard that before. Then we soon could see the big black smoke and knew it couldn’t be good. I wanted to get my kid out of town who is going to school at WITC. As a bus driver for Maple School District I had to get back to the school as I had a sports bus trip going south that afternoon. I didn’t want to leave my own family. Even though we live out by Lake Nebagamon, I was worried about the “what if”. I remember driving back that night and I could smell a stink in the air as we drove back through Solon Springs, a very unique stink. I am just grateful things were not worse as we all know it could have been very devastating. Thank you to those brave people that jumped in the middle of it to help people and try to get the fire out.”“Was my first day there. I was trained to take proper evacuation steps by husky to ensure my safety. I followed those steps and am still there today thanks to husky and inline constructions training.”“Just leaving my house a half mile down the road from the site.”“I had only been home about 2 hours from my shift on the fire department. I was reading with my 4-year old son when the blast shook my house. Within a few minutes, I received a callback text from work. I dropped my son at daycare and rushed into the fire station to work. My son still asks if mommy will have to ever fight the “black fire” again. I dare say I hope not, but as a firefighter in the City of Superior, we are always at the ready and able to respond to the worst of the worst.”“1255 port terminal road. Working at Altec. Everyone talking about a big fire at the refinery and how it could blow up and effect us too.”“I was in St Luke’s Bldg. A waiting to have cataract surgery. I was all prepped to go and my surgeon cam in and told us that the hospital had been placed on alert for mass casualties and that all pending surgeries were on hold. Waited for about an hour or so for it to be sorted out and was able to have my surgery.”“I was working not far away at all. I worked at the time at the mariner mall. The entire building shook twice. We where initially told we would be fine, that changed at 1 p.m. when we needed to evacuate. When outside you could huge back smoke and the smell was horrible.”“Playing in the yard with my two toddlers and my mom. We heard the boom and thought maybe it was a train. My mom said, “I hope it wasn’t the refinery!” as a joke and it turned out to be just that. My husband, who works down the street from the refinery, called me and told me to get in the house with the kids. I immediately worried about my kids at Bryant and SMS, and I was scared. My mom went to get the big kids, I packed stuff for all 6 of us to leave and we were gone by 2. I was so angry at the refinery but also grateful we had time to leave.”“I was in St.Luke’s ER with my son who was having an asthma attack. A message over the loudspeaker advising to clear all rooms for a possible mass casualty event. We were quickly discharged and when we walked out we could hear sirens and see smoke from across the bay. It was terrifying not knowing what was happening and not having my whole family close to me.”“I remember getting called at work from my mother. At the time I was in the Lake Shore of Duluth, and my mother who lived next to the Middle school was terrified what was going to happen. I had to call someone into work and rush over to grab my mother. We didn’t know where to go, and didn’t have a lot of time to find a hotel. Thankfully we found one quickly, and contacted family and friends. It was terrifying to think our whole town could have been gone in seconds.”“I was at Bryant Elementary. We watched the explosions from our windows while we distracted and calmed children.”“I was at work, my children were at school and day care I left in a whirl wind freaking out trying to get them. Traffic was so backed up my road was closed off I couldn’t even get home to get clothes or my baby’s stuff. Fortunately my day card gave me diapers and wipes to last until I could go home.”“Scared. Lost. Nervous. I have never been in any situation like that before. Didn’t know where or what to do!”“I was working at the hospital that day. It’s a day I will never forget, the unknown of what happened and the concern for victims. So thankful for the hospital taking quick action to prepare and for the first responders for being ready!”“At Shannon’s Stained Glassery working. There was a loud boom and our whole building felt like it was hit by a truck, found out later it was the shock from the initial explosion. Received a call from the school regarding the fire , looked out our back door to see the smoke in the background. Went out pretty quickly, while shaken we tried to carry on with business as usual when I started getting messages from my daughter at the middle school that the fire was still going and she was scared. Looked out our back door and the sky was black. We shut the shop down immediately to pick up our kids, I got my middle schoolers in time. Stopped back at the shop to meet a customer then received a call that I needed to evacuate followed by the call that my younger kids at Bryant were being evacuated. After picking up our kids from Amsoil we went straight to Duluth as our neighborhood had been evacuated. Thanks to random help from a friend we were given clothes for the night and found a hotel.”“I was home at the time working, only about mile from refinery. Suddenly felt house shake and heard loud boom. But wasn’t sure at first what happened. Until I got call from school district notifying of fire. Then got call saying students being bussed to local business in town. I was in manic state just wanting to be with my kids and family as we were unaware of what may happen. Finally we were all reunited and fled out of town for the night.”“I was at home on 2400 block of E 5th St. About one mile from refinery. At the time of the explosion my entire house shook & I heard a very loud boom. I went outside & saw the large black cloud from the smoke. There were several explosive sounds following the initial explosion. Shortly after that we were told to evacuate.”“I was at home in south end in Superior and I was watching the smoke from the refinery.”“I was at work on the hill, and I received a call stating I needed to evacuate, I then checked social media and saw the news. I immediately left work when I wasn’t able too, and drove home. It was around 4. Every gas station on tower was closed. Everything was empty. I still have videos of 28th St Kwik Trip being closed. Gives me chills to this day! I then went home and got my animals, and headed out to my parents who were in the safe zone! Where there, we watched the news- and could see the smoke from there. Once we were cleared we went back home!”“I was at the observation dog park. If you are familiar with it then you can oversee superior from the cliffs. I remember looking out and noticed a large black/gray plume of smoke. I thought to myself, hmm that’s a big smoke cloud but didn’t think anything after that, until I got home. I made it home and logged into Facebook. That’s when I saw all the live feed streaming if breaking news that the refinery in superior was on fire. I watched the news for a little bit until I realized I should probably call my job. What you don’t know is that I’m a manager at a hotel in Superior, WI. I called my boss who was at the hotel at the time. I asked how it was going while in the background I could start hearing phones ringing constantly. I asked her do you need help/do you want me to come in early. She said yes. I remember driving to work and all I could see was smoke. When I crossed over the Blatnik, I saw the evacuation sign up over the bridge and I just saw cars and cars in line to get onto the high bridge while I’m driving the opposite way. I got into work and it was chaos. Employees started leaving to get their kids from school and to figure out where they were going to stay that night, my boss told me how they could feel the explosion at the hotel when it happened. We had calls on top of calls, people asking some ridiculous questions like are you guys still there, is the fire close to you will you be open in a week when we are coming into town. We answered them the best we could not knowing a lot ourselves. At the same time while answering all the phone calls we were trying to find rooms for all our guests that were in house. Luckily we were able to. We had everyone staying in Duluth. Around 6pm, while still constantly answering phone calls I was sent out to get dinner for us. I remember just driving around trying to find anything. Little Caesar’s was closed, Dominos had a written sign up on there door, closed due to evacuations, Kwik Trip was closed. Part of the town was a ghost town. It was like what you saw in a movie. I finally found the Kwik Trip by the bong bridge was open. We stayed closed for the night, we had a completely empty hotel, no guests. It was crazy. We were prepared for the worst. Luckily, the worst didn’t happen.”