The March, 1972 Louisville, Kentucky Chlorine Leak Threat and Evacuation: Observations on Community Coordination

Fitzpatrick, John S.
Waxman, Jerry J.
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Disaster Research Center
At approximately 5:15 a.m. on March 19, 1972, a southbound tow of nine barges hit the head of Shippingport Island in the Ohio River, an area just north of the heart: of Louisville, Kentucky. Upon ramming the island, four of the nine barges broke loose and drifted downstream on the north side of Shippingport Island through an area known as the Falls of the Ohio. barge was immediately recovered; a second barge with a cargo of chrome ore was lost and presumed sunk; a third barge laden with sulfuric acid came to rest next to a hydroelectric plant making up part of McAlpine Dam and wag retrieved some days later. The fourth barge, and the one of concern in this study, carrying 640 tons of liquid chlorine in four pressurized cylinders, lodged partly submerged in the second of four tainter gates in the McAlpine Dam. Data for this report were gathered by two Disaster Research Center (DRC) field teams that visited Louisville on two different occasions during the month of April, 1972. Intensive interviews were conducted with one or more officials in 14 federal, state, county, city and private organizations actively involved in the evacuation preparations and operations. Only indirect attention was given to those agencies such as the National Weather Service or the salvage contractor who had little to do directly with the evacuation but were primarily concerned with engineering aspects of the salvage operation and/or with providing technical information about the state of the salvage progress and meteorological conditions. Other data sources utilized in this study included some field observations during the operation, a wide variety of mass media accounts, and various memoranda, reports and other written documents obtained from different organizations.
evaluation , observation , community coordination , chlorine leak threat , Louisville, Kentucky