Texans Left With A Mess As SpaceX’s Starship Caused A Dust Cloud

Texans Left With A Mess As SpaceX’s Starship Caused A Dust Cloud

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The launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas, witnessed the most powerful rocket ever built, SpaceX’s Starship, take off with a such force that it caused the earth to shake and created a massive cloud of dust and debris. It resulted in brown grime raining down for miles, shaking nearby homes and causing concern among residents of Port Isabel, a city approximately six miles northwest.

The residents of Port Isabel, located less than 10 miles from the border with Mexico and known for its towering lighthouse, were left to deal with the aftermath as SpaceX’s Starship exploded 4 minutes after liftoff.

Texans Left With A Mess As SpaceX’s Starship Caused A Dust Cloud

“It was truly terrifying,” said Sharon Almaguer, who, at the time of the launch, was at home with her mother, 80. During prior launches, Almaguer admitted she had experienced some shaking inside the brick house, but that “this was on a completely different level.”  Valerie Bates, a Port Isabel spokeswoman, said virtually every part of the city was covered in a thick, granular sand-like substance.

Social media images have depicted residents’ cars blanketed in brown debris. Meanwhile, at a fitness gym, the force of the launch caused a window to shatter, as reported by its owner Luis Alanis. 

Luis compared the rumbling to a mini earthquake and estimated the cost of the damage to be around $300. Louis Balderas, the founder of LabPadre, who films SpaceX’s launches, witnessed large pieces of debris flying through the air and noted that while it was typical to observe some debris, smoke, and dust during launches, the impact of Thursday’s liftoff was unprecedented in his experience.

“There were bowling ball-sized pieces of concrete that came flying out of the launchpad area,” Balderas told Nytimes. The blast, he added, created a crater that he estimated was around 25 feet deep.

The city of Port Isabel has since released a statement on Facebook stating that the emergency management division of Cameron County had verified the dust was sand and soil from the SpaceX launch site, which had been lifted into the air by the force of the liftoff. However, a spokeswoman for the county’s emergency management division redirected all queries regarding the dust from the explosion to SpaceX.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. has officially ordered the closure of Boca Chica Beach and a section of State Highway 4 to safeguard public health and safety during the cleanup efforts following the anomaly. 

But so far, spokeswoman Valerie says that based on the present information, there is no immediate concern for the health of the people in the area. Eric Roesch, an expert in environmental compliance and risk assessment who has been monitoring SpaceX’s rocket launches, warned that without a chemical analysis of the dust and debris, it was challenging to determine whether or not they posed a threat to human health.

Roesch added that the presence of the dust indicated that the impact modeling was inadequate, as it was not previously disclosed as a possible impact. 

In June, the Federal Aviation Administration’s environmental evaluation concluded that SpaceX’s plans for orbital launches would have no significant impact on the Gulf Coast region. But then, the ESG Hound’s environmental policy blog owner, Roesch, says the SpaceX launch site doesn’t have a trench or water system designed to divert the rocket’s flame away from the ground, not mitigate the impact. 

As of Thursday evening, neither SpaceX nor the F.A.A. had reportedly responded to inquiries about the dust and debris.

Texans Left With A Mess As SpaceX’s Starship Caused A Dust Cloud
SpaceX YouTube

Almaguer noted that while Elon Musk’s enterprise had brought employment opportunities to an economically struggling area, the brown muck coating her city served as a reminder of the environmental consequences and a signal that things may have gone out of control. “The locals here are just being sacrificed,” she said. “He just wanted to get this thing up in the air. Everybody else sort of be damned.”

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