Toxic Tuesday in Cedar Rapids: The Day 10,000 Were Evacuated [VIDEO]
Toxic Tuesday was one of the scariest days in Cedar Rapids history for residents of the city.
It was Tuesday, July 16, 1985. At approximately 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, workers demolishing the city's old sewage treatment plant sparked a huge fire that sent thick, dark smoke into the air. Smoke that was toxic.
The fire burned polyvinyl chloride inside a building at the abandoned plant, releasing hydrogen chloride into the air, according to the Chicago Tribune. At the time, KGAN reported that those exposed could suffer from everything from drowsiness to coughing, shortness of breath, headache, and weakness. Even walking and the central nervous system could be impacted.
Shortly after the fire started, the Cedar Rapids Police Department began evacuations. All told, approximately 10,000 people would be forced to leave their homes as a precautionary measure. Even parts of northern Johnson County were evacuated as the smoke poured into the air. Most businesses in the city closed. Barricades were set up along I-380 and other major roadways, cutting Cedar Rapids off to visitors.
Cedar Rapids firefighters had the difficult task of battling the blaze without fire hydrants. Those nearby had been turned off when the former sewage treatment plant was closed, forcing the fire department to get water from the Cedar River, which was almost a quarter-mile from the fire.
Cedar Rapids fire crews found that battling the fire with water didn't work very well and instead decided to bury the blaze, with heavy equipment. By noon the following day, about 22 hours after it had begun, the day that would become known as Toxic Tuesday was only a memory. Thankfully, fewer than 60 people were treated and released at area hospitals after inhaling the fumes.
What do you remember about Toxic Tuesday?