Willard Evacuations in Place Through Holiday

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WILLARD, OH -- Willard High School will offer free Thanksgiving dinner to families Thursday after a train derailment, which caused a chemical spill, forced them to evacuate.

Hazmat crews responded to the scene of the trail derailment at the Willard Rail Yard in the Huron County town of Willard, which happened around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"I heard it and I thought, yeah, ok. Then about 2 o'clock, the police came to the door and said we gotta go, and they wanted us out of the house, out of the area," said displaced resident Jim Heffley.

Willard police went door to door in a half-mile radius from the derailment, evacuating about 400 homes. The fire chief says the accident punctured a tanker, creating a four-inch hole that was leaking a substance called Styrene Monomer, which is highly flammable.

Police say the leak was contained around 3:20 p.m. Wednesday after approximately 12,500 gallons leaked from the tanker.

Jodi Burks came home to quickly grab some personal belongings.

"We didn't know what it was at first, then, of course, you don't want to breathe it. I only have two-thirds of my lung. I have lung cancer. So yeah, it was pretty scary for me," Burks said.

Streets remained closed Wednesday while crews worked to stop the leak. Willard High School was turned into a Red Cross shelter for displaced residents like Autumn Albright, who spent the day at the high school with her three children.

"We got to run home and get a change of clothes and I picked up some things to try to entertain them because they've just been kind of antsy all day," said Albright.

"Nobody likes being displaced, you know? We got woke up in the middle of the night and everything, you gotta leave, there's a chemical spill and it's highly dangerous and it's kind of wondering ... well, what do I grab first?" said Manual DeLeon Gonzalez.

Some displaced residents say no matter when they're allowed home, it's already ruined their Thanksgiving.

"I can't get in my house and I don't have the food or anything there right now, so I wouldn't be able to cook it because I don't have a turkey," said Petra Ysasaga.

Willard High School will offer Thanksgiving dinner for the displaced residents on Thursday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Some area restaurants are also offering free meals to the families.

A spokeswoman for the Red Cross says CSX is putting up some displaced families in hotels. The Red Cross says those hotels, if they have restaurants, will offer the families free meals as well.

According to the City of Willard, CSX is providing hotel rooms in either Tiffin or Sandusky to those in need. Residents can stop by the Willard High School commons area and ask for a CSX outreach representative for accommodations.

Residents who sought hotel rooms on their own can take their receipts to the outreach representative at Willard High School for reimbursement.

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