As the most powerful rocket ever built launched from the launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas, on Thursday, the takeoff shook the ground and sent a billowing cloud of dust and debris, shaking homes and raining brown dirt for miles.
In Port Isabel, a city about six miles northwest where at least one window was broken, residents were alarmed.
“It was really terrifying,” said Sharon Almaguire, who was at home with her 80-year-old mother. During previous launches, Ms. Almaguire said she experienced some shaking inside the brick house, but “this was on a whole different level.”
Meanwhile, the SpaceX spacecraft exploded minutes after liftoff and before reaching orbit. Close to the launch site, Port Isabel is famous for being towering beacon Less than 10 miles from the border with Mexico, they were left to deal with the chaos.
Practically everywhere in the city “ended up with a blanket of rather thick grains of sand that fell on everything,” Port Isabel spokeswoman Valerie Bates said in an interview. Pictures posted on social media showed Population cars Covered with brown debris.
Its owner, Luis Alanis, said a window was broken in a gym. Mr. Alanis, who was in the house at the time of the launch, said he felt a “rumbling, kind of like a little earthquake.” He estimated that the window would cost about $300 to repair.
closer to the launch site, Large pieces of debris She was recorded flying through the air and crashing an unoccupied car. Luis Balderas, Founder Lap padrewho depicts a SpaceX launch, said that while it was common to see some debris, smoke and dust, the effect of Thursday’s takeoff was unlike anything he’d seen before.
“There were bowling ball-sized pieces of concrete flying out from the launch pad area,” Mr. Balderas said. He added that the explosion caused a crater about 25 feet deep.
In a statement posted on FacebookThe city of Port Isabel said the Cameron County Emergency Management Department confirmed that the dust “was sand and soil near the SpaceX launch site that was lifted into the air at takeoff power.” A spokeswoman for the county’s emergency management department said all questions regarding dust from the explosion should be directed to SpaceX.
On Thursday, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. issued an order ending from Boca Chica Beach and a section of State Highway 4 until 2 p.m. Friday “for the purpose of protecting public health and safety during abnormal cleanup efforts.”
Ms. Bates, a spokeswoman for Port Isabel, said that based on current information, there was “no immediate concern for people’s health”.
Eric Roche, an expert in environmental compliance and risk assessment who has been tracking SpaceX rocket launches, said in an interview that he’s been with others for a long time. Beware of environmental hazards to the surrounding area. He added that without a chemical analysis of the dust and debris, it was difficult to determine whether or not they were harmful to human health.
But, Mr. Roach said, “The presence of this type of dust indicates to me that the impact modeling was not adequate, because this was not detected as a potential impact.” In June, an environmental assessment by the Federal Aviation Administration concluded that SpaceX’s plans for orbital launches would not have a “significant impact” on the region along the Gulf Coast.
Mr. Roach, who runs the Environmental Policy Blog ESG HoundHe said he believed the dust and debris largely came from a giant crater formed during the rocket launch. Typically, major launch sites are designed using a trench or water system This, he said, helps deflect the missile’s flame away from the ground and dampens the impact.
He said, “They didn’t.” “Looks like they went ahead and just released this thing.”
Neither SpaceX nor the FAA immediately responded to questions about the dust and debris Thursday night.
Ms. Almaguire, a resident of Port Isabel, said that while Elon Musk’s project has brought jobs to an area in economic straits, the brown mud covering her city was a reminder of the environmental downsides and a sign that things are spinning out of control. “The locals are being sacrificed here,” she said.
“He just wanted to put that thing up in the air,” Mrs. Almajor said of Mr. Musk. “Everyone is kind of cursed.”
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