From the countless possibilities, here are the news stories that stood out from that time frame:

Husky Energy refinery fire

An explosion just after 10 a.m. at the Husky Energy refinery in Superior on April 26, 2018, interrupted an otherwise calm spring morning.

As crews were shutting down parts of the refinery for a planned five-week turnaround, a worn valve within the fluid catalytic cracking unit allowed hydrocarbons and air to mix and, eventually, igniting.

The blast injured 36 refinery employees and contractors, but no one died.

Shrapnel from the blast punctured a nearby asphalt tank, which caused its contents to spill onto the site. At around noon, the asphalt caught fire, causing a massive smoke plume visible throughout the Twin Ports and beyond.

Much of Superior evacuated, but it wasn’t until hours later that officials actually said why they ordered the evacuation.

The News Tribune was first to question company and public officials on the presence of hydrogen fluoride, which is used in the process to create high-octane gasoline and can cause death from an irregular heartbeat or from fluid buildup in the lungs when inhaled at high levels or in combination with skin contact.

Officials avoided questions about hydrogen fluoride during a news conference held as the fire still burned. However, a Superior Fire Department official told the News Tribune after the news conference ended that having the fire spread to the hydrogen fluoride tank would be the worst-case scenario, with other experts saying the fumes could spread a toxic cloud of gas for miles downwind. Superior’s evacuation, the fire official confirmed, was based on the potential of a hydrogen fluoride release. No hydrogen fluoride was released during the incident.

By 7 p.m., the fire was contained, well ahead of the days-long fire some officials predicted, and the evacuation was lifted early the next morning. But a lengthy debate over the future of hydrogen fluoride at the refinery and two separate federal investigations into the incident were just beginning.

The refinery is being rebuilt, and Husky has said it will continue to use hydrogen fluoride, with a partial restart possible in 2020 and a full restart planned for 2021.

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