NewsLocal News


Tornado hits Barnsdall's largest employer, leaves local economy's future unclear

NuCera refinery plant in Barnsdall
Posted at 6:31 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 19:31:27-04

BARNSDALL, Okla. — The largest employer in Barnsdall, the NuCera refinery plant, is just one of the innumerable buildings that took a beating from May 6's violent tornado.

For about 1,400 people, the plant is their livelihood. Now, the fate of careers and the plant’s play in the local economy are up in the air.

William Schapansky was working the night shift when the weather turned violent.

Here's footage of the plant:

Barnsdall refinery takes big hit from tornado

He and a few other crew members were watching the tornado from the plant’s storm shelter back, but when the wind picked up, they closed what were supposed to be pressurized doors.

“The tornado came directly over the building, sucked both of the doors open, all of the air came out of the building, and it was hard to breathe for a second,” said Schapansky. “And then instantly, it just switched. Debris, limbs, rocks, gravel, everything just started flying in through the doors.”

At that point, he said he thought their lives, along with the building, were about to be lost.

They stayed in the shelter hours after the worst of the storm before coming face to face with their homes, now littered across familiar streets.

When he came home, Schapansky saw he was not spared from the destruction. The home he lived in for eight years — left in rubble.

“This was a two-story house, and there’s one wall standing; the rest of it’s just gone,” said Schapansky. It’s all just gone; I basically have nothing left. We’ve salvaged what we can, a few clothes here and there and some personal items, but most of it’s just destroyed and gone.”

He said he thinks the time has come to leave the town he’s lived in for nearly thirty years and start over.
As for Schapansky’s professional career in Barnsdall, he’s unsure what the future holds. The building suffered quite a hit, with steel structures ‘corkscrewed’ and thrown about, Schapansky said.

“They’re kind of keeping us in the dark. As far as I know, we’re going to be coming back, but they’re still not a hundred percent on it, so we’re just kind of waiting to see what the bosses say.”

Residents in town said that crews were working at the plant on May 8, beginning to access and repair what was damaged.

2 News asked Schapansky what would happen if the plant wasn’t able to be repaired and closed for good.

“If that refinery goes out and they don’t have that supply for employment anymore, then I’m guessing most of these people are probably going to move out of town,” he said.

We reached out to NuCera’s corporate office, and have not heard back.

Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere --