TRACY - Emergency personnel were called to the CHS Inc. elevator Tuesday afternoon in Tracy, marking the second time that an emergency response was needed at the site in the past three months. This time, however, there were no injuries reported.
The cleanup necessary for a grain bin rupture, which happened at approximately 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, is another story. According to CHS feed manager Rod Benson, the collapsed bin was nearly full of corn, which then spilled out in all directions.
"If the bin is full, it's about 62,000 bushels," Benson said. "I think it was pretty close to being full. We can be thankful that no one was injured. It's just a mess to clean up. That's about it."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Two emergency responders gazed at the opening where a large grain bin used to be located before it ruptured Tuesday afternoon, spilling approximately 60,000 bushels of corn onto the ground, damaging two vehicles and smashing up a building at the CHS elevator in Tracy.
Benson reported that the collapsed bin had been identical to the one closest to South 4th Street that was still standing but said he wasn't sure how old the twin bins were.
"They're not ridiculously old," Benson said. "They're not antique or anything. They shouldn't come apart, but once in a while, they do."
The last time emergency responders arrived at the CHS elevator was on Aug. 6, when an explosion injured two people. On Tuesday, Benson was in his office when the commotion began, though he said he didn't hear a thing.
Krista and Ray Hatton of Tracy said they not only heard the bin collapse, they also observed it. The bystanders were less than a block away when it happened.
"We were just out walking and we heard some cracking," Krista Hatton said. "We turned to our right and we saw the whole silo just go down."
Ray Hatton said he couldn't believe what he had seen.
"It went from top, down, peeled like a banana," he said. "We just stood there for a minute, wondering what to do."
As the Hattons stood there, dust from the corn spread over them.
"There was a dust cloud and it did envelop the entire area, right where we were standing at the corner," Ray Hatton said. "I'm not much for a loss for words, but I was after this."
In a strange twist, Ray Hatton can also vividly recall his experience the last time emergency personnel were called to the CHS site.
"I saw and felt that one," he said. "I felt it through the ground and I saw the explosion. I was about 200 feet away."
Krista Hatton said she saw Tracy Fire Chief Dale Johnson III arrive first.
"He was first on the scene," she said. "Then the fire trucks and ambulance came."
Tracy resident Kami Hanson was at home when she heard a loud noise.
"I'm three or four blocks away," Hanson said. "I was outside when I heard it. Then I saw the trucks go, so I followed them down here."
There were also a number of other onlookers at the scene, many of whom realized that it was going to be a difficult clean-up process.
For CHS employee Herb Hanson and part-time driver Brady Beyer, transportation was also going to be difficult. Both of their vehicles were swept away from their usual parking spot by the force of the corn being dispelled from the ruptured grain bin, like that of a small avalanche. Hanson's vehicle was barely visible, having been nearly buried by the corn.
Beyer's car finally came to rest part way through the second wall of the CHS receiving driveway, where semis typically come through to dump grain. While the glass remained intact on one side of Beyer's vehicle, the other side did not fare so well.
"The other side is worse," Beyer said. "The glass is broken out on that side. But thank God no one was injured."