South Sioux City Police Chief Ed Mahon says plans are being formulated to protect nearby homes and businesses if the 230-foot-tall Anderson Farms elevator topples.
“The basic plan at this point is to start moving large containers, like on container ships, and they’ll build a perimeter around it along the street to help contain it should it fall,” Chief Mahon says. “They have a plan for snow fence. They’re going to barricade the area away from people, pedestrians and vehicles, so nobody can wander in there.”
Many of the homes and businesses nearby were evacuated on Tuesday and some remain empty due to safety concerns. Some residents were offered refuge at a Red Cross shelter in the South Sioux City Middle School.
Inspectors have been looking over the tall structure, which has an enormous gaping hole in its side, and a final decision has yet to be reached on how to proceed.
“All the assumptions are that they’re going to bring it down,” Mahon says. “That’s the assumption right now. I haven’t been given that as the definitive word but if they do, they’ll have the equipment, they’ll have the right crews to do it safely and as quickly as we can.”
Investigators fear the remaining building could collapse, so they don’t want to wait much longer before starting the demolition process.
“They’re going to assume that it could fall at any time, that’s why we’re going to make sure that we keep the perimeter safe, that we keep the homes evacuated,” Mahon says. “I think that’s the safest thing. I can’t say that they don’t think it’s going to fall. It probably will. We hope it doesn’t.”
While no official cause of the explosion has been released, the speculation is that grain dust sparked the blast.
Three employees were at the elevator at the time of the explosion. One had minor injuries and another was badly hurt. Mahon says he remains hospitalized in a Lincoln burn center with serious injuries. His name wasn’t released.
A video drone from the South Sioux City police shows up-close views of the damage.
Story and photo by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City