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UPDATE: The refinery fire is contained and the shelter in place has been lifted.


Due to potentially toxic smoke from the Chevron refinery fire burning right now in Richmond, CA, a shelter in place alert has been issued for Richmond, North Richmond, Berkeley, San Pablo, & El Cerrito in California.

Here's what the National Weather Service is relaying in their shelter in place notice:

Shelter in Place Warning

CAC001-070830-

URGENT - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
SHELTER IN PLACE WARNING
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY HEALTH SERVICES
RELAYED BY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
929 PM PDT MON AUG 6 2012

SHELTER IN PLACE

THIS IS A MESSAGE FROM CONTRA COSTA HEALTH SERVICES.

THERE IS AN EMERGENCY AT THE CHEVRON REFINERY.

RESIDENTS IN RICHMOND. NORTH RICHMOND AND SAN PABLO. ARE ADVISED TO SHELTER IN PLACE. GO INSIDE. CLOSE ALL WINDOWS AND DOORS. TURN OFF ALL HEATERS. AIR CONDITIONERS AND FANS. IF NOT USING THE FIREPLACE. CLOSE FIREPLACE DAMPERS AND VENTS. AND COVER CRACKS AROUND DOORS AND WINDOWS WITH TAPE OR DAMPED TOWELS. MEDIA NEWS NETWORKS WILL CONTINUE TO CARRY UPDATED EMERGENCY INFORMATION. STAY OFF THE TELEPHONE UNLESS YOU HAVE A LIFE THREATENING EMERGENCY.

PEOPLE THAT ARE HAVING SKIN...NOSE OR THROAT IRRITATION OR ARE HAVING TROUBLE BREATHING AS A RESULT OF THIS INCIDENT MAY GO INSIDE AND SHUT THEIR WINDOWS AND DOORS TO MINIMIZE ANY EXPOSURE. TO GET UP TO DATE INFORMATION ON THE INCIDENT...PLEASE STAY TUNED INTO A TELEVISION OR RADIO STATION. CONTRA COSTA HEALTH SERVICES WORKS CLOSELY WITH KCBS 740 AM TO GET INFORMATION TO THE PUBLIC.

$$

Again, they've issued the shelter in place and are relaying borderline spooky messages because they're still trying to figure out just how toxic the smoke is. If the smoke is toxic, you need to try to stay away from it if you can by staying inside, closing all your doors/windows/flues/etc. and waiting until they say that the air is clear.

KQED News has more on the refinery fire:

At a press conference a Chevron official said a small leak in the diesel processing unit grew and caught fire. They are currently trying to burn off excess fuel. An OSHA spokesperson says the fire can burn through the night.

Trisha Asuncion, a hazards material specialist with Contra Costa County Health Department, says that they are continuing to monitor the plume, which is at between 3,000 and 4,000 feet. They are most concerned about sufla compounds in the smoke.

Here's a picture of the refinery fire from earlier in the evening, from KTVU Channel 2's Facebook feed:

Update:

The reason the smoke is lingering instead of rising up and out of the area is because of the large capping inversion, as seen by this model generated SKEW-T chart for Richmond CA, which shows temperature, dew point, and wind data throughout the atmosphere at that specific point.

A capping inversion (where the red line and green line diverge towards the bottom of the image) acts like a cap on the atmosphere -- as soon as rising air (and smoke) hits that cap, it can't rise any further, so it stops and spreads out.

Winds are generally from the west in this area, so the smoke should be blowing inland.

And here's a picture of the smoke hitting the cap and spreading out, much to the misfortune of those living in the area. Picture by John Storey for The Chronicle/SF:

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