Weather imperils explosive stockpile in Louisiana

DOYLINE, La. — Weather could complicate the transfer of roughly 6 million pounds of explosives that were haphazardly stored at an industrial site in northwestern Louisiana and led to the evacuation of a small town, a State Police spokeswoman said Monday.

If lightning is spotted within five miles of the site, authorities will suspend efforts that began on Saturday to move the artillery propellant, Lieutenant Julie Lewis said.

Light rain fell at midday in the vicinity of the site near the town of Doyline. No lightning was expected Monday, but thunderstorms were forecast for Tuesday.


Officials estimate that more than half of Doyline’s 800 residents heeded police advice to evacuate in advance of the cleanup at the Explo Systems Inc. site. Colonel Mike Edmondson, commander of Louisiana State Police, said the material is stable and would need an ignition source to explode.

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The precautions were taken because officials fear that any spark could set off a huge explosion of the material, which they said was stored improperly in a relatively small area.

One of several residents who relocated to a nearby state park expressed exasperation at the sheer volume of explosive material, which is more than authorities initially estimated.

‘‘We got outside the evacuation area when they said there was a million pounds. Now it’s 6 million,’’ said Frank Peetz, 71, who was staying with his wife in a camper. ‘‘Maybe we ought to be up in Arkansas somewhere.’’

Edmondson was hesitant to estimate when it would be safe for Doyline residents to return home. He also said State Police were not sure how much damage an explosion of the material could cause, even after consulting with Department of Defense officials.


‘‘Nobody can tell you what 6 million pounds of explosives would do if it went up,’’ Edmondson said in a telephone interview. ‘‘And I don’t want to find out.’’

Edmonson said that Explo Systems leases and controls about 400 acres of the 15,000-acre Camp Minden, a former ammunition plant that now is a state-owned industrial site and home to a National Guard training facility. It was discovered there, stored indoors and outdoors, sometimes in containers that had spilled open, by a trooper following up on an October explosion.

Doyline was used to film some scenes for the HBO vampire series ‘‘True Blood.’’