Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Storms lead to oil spill, flooding

Thunderstorms last week caused problems in the Orangefield-Bridge City area, first with an oil spill down Cow Bayou, and then with a short, heavy rain burst that left street flooded and water going into houses.

Orange County Emergency Disaster Director Joel Ardoin said about 60 gallons of crude oil spilled into Cow Bayou in Orangefield after a lightning strike the night of Wednesday, May 29.

Also, Ardoin said six to seven inches of rain fell within a short time in Bridge City in the middle of the day on Saturday, June 1. The cell of a thunderstorm "just sat there" over the area.

The two minor disasters are results of a number of thunderstorms that have moved across Texas and Louisiana during the past month. One thunderstorm brought a tornado through Sulphur, Louisiana, near Orange and another storm brought golf ball-size hail to the Fannett area in Jefferson County to the west of Orange County.

Heavier rains in East Texas north of Orange County on Tuesday brought the Sabine River Authority to begin opening gates at the Toledo Bend Reservoir dam. By the evening, all 11 spillway gates were open to two feet each and both generators were operating with a total of 35,206 cubic feet of water per second being released.

Ardoin said lightning hit a crude oil storage tank along the bayou north of the FM 105 bridge. The strike caused a hole and the oil leaked into a containment area designed for leaks. However, someone left a valve open on the containment area, which led to the oil going into the bayou.

The tank and well are owned by an out-of-state corporation named Benchmark, Ardoin said.

By the time the spill was discovered the next morning, an estimated 60 barrels, or 2,520 gallons, of oil had begun traveling downstream toward Bridge City.

The Texas General Land Office sent emergency crews out for the spill and Ardoin on Tuesday said the spill had been contained. The emergency crew has set up its base along the shore of Cow Bayou in Bridge City near the large boat ramp at the Highway 87 Bridge.

Ardoin said the GLO is trying to stop boat traffic along Cow Bayou from the FM 105 Bridge in Orangefield to the north side of the Highway 87 Bridge in Bridge City.

Immediately after the oil spill was discovered, the FM 105 bridge and the small bayou boat ramp in Orangefield were closed. The bridge has been opened, but Ardoin said that boat launch is closed.

The large boat ramp in Bridge City at Highway 87 is open, but boats are supposed to travel only southward on the bayou. The bridge there has never closed.

The Saturday thunderstorm surprised Bridge City residents and people traveling through. Even Texas Avenue, which is part of Highway 87, was flooded, along with FM 1442, or Roundbunch Road.

Water on roadways flooded some cars and came up to the doors on large pickup trucks. Ardoin said there were reports of water getting into some houses.

Social media posts were made by angry residents complaining that pickup trucks traveling along flooded streets were sending waves of water into their houses or shops.

Bridge City Mayor David Rutledge has asked any one in Bridge City who got water into their buildings to call city hall and report it.

The city information will allow the city to track and assess problems.

The Sabine River, along with Adams and Cow bayous in its system, has been high for the past few weeks as lines of thunderstorms have hit the state. Areas north of Orange County in the Sabine rivershed have had more rainfall than Southeast Texas.

The Sabine River Authority, which is mandated by federal law to keep Toledo Bend Reservoir at 172.5 feet, had been releasing water from the dam. Deweyville had flooding and schools even closed for a few days.

The dam gates had been closed, allowing the water levels downstream to go down. But lots more rain upstream has now brought SRA to begin sending 35,206 cubic feet of water a second rushing down the Sabine. Even with that much water being released, the lake level was at 172.96 feet.

"I hope this is our bad weather for the season," Ardoin said.

However, hurricane season officially started on Saturday and the National Hurricane Center is predicting an above average active year.


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