On the morning of May 25, 2004, a chemical fire broke out at the BioLab facility in Conyers, near the I-20 corridor in Rockdale County.
The plume of hazardous smoke nearly stretched as far as the South Carolina state line, and authorities closed I-20 for hours as crews worked to control the flames during that fire.
The effect of the plume was felt more than 50 miles away, according to the EPA. Nearly 30 people were hospitalized.
Rockdale County sheriff’s deputies also went door-to-door in a one-mile radius of the warehouse, urging people to evacuate. The evacuations were only voluntary, not mandatory during the 2004 fire.
The 2004 fire was put out a day later.
WSB’s Mark McKay covered the chemical fire live from the Triple Team Traffic Skycopter, and he relayed what he remember of the situation below.
The weather did play a role in the chemical fire’s longevity and geographic extent. Below is a Skew-T diagram that illustrates the temperature, dewpoint, wind speed and wind direction for the atmosphere above the Metro Atlanta area the morning of May 25, 2004.
The Skew-T diagram shows that a thermal inversion developed over Metro Atlanta, particularly over the Conyers area. A thermal inversion means the temperature increases with height -- acting as a lid on the smoke and preventing it from billowing higher in the sky. The wind was also gently blowing from the west towards the east.
As a result, the smoke from the chemical fire was trapped within the half mile above the ground as it wafted eastward along I-20.
Additional information regarding the 2004 BioLab chemical fire is available at EPA.org.
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