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Apr 24, 2014 - The Associated Press

Residents of Opal allowed to return

OPAL -- Residents were allowed to return home Thursday, nearly 22 hours after an explosion at a natural gas processing plant forced the evacuation of their small southwestern Wyoming town.

Lincoln County spokesman Stephen Malik said that the evacuation order was lifted shortly after 11:30 a.m. Thursday even though a fire was still burning at the plant.

No injuries were reported in the explosion Wednesday in Opal, a town of about 95 people about 100 miles northeast of Salt Lake City. All of Opal was evacuated.

Gas from the plant serves a huge number of customers across the West and as far east as Ohio, but the explosion came between the winter heating and summer cooling seasons, when demand is lower, officials said.

The blast was reported at about 2 p.m. Firefighters decided to let the fire burn off rather than try to put it out.

"It burned so hot you can't fight this thing," Malik said of the fire.

The explosion occurred in a cryogenic processing tower, which chills unrefined natural gas to remove impurities.

The fire was confined to the facility, and no structures in the town were affected, county officials said.

Lummis sets re-election bid

CHEYENNE -- Rep. Cynthia Lummis announced her bid to seek a fourth two-year term to Wyoming's only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican was first elected to the House in 2008 and easily won re-election in 2010 and 2012.

Jackson mapping sliding hillslide

JACKSON -- Workers are drilling the first of four holes around a sliding hillside in the resort town of Jackson to help engineers map ground movement and analyze the soil.

Engineers are hoping core samples will help them understand the depth of the slide, water levels and rock locations that are causing the side of a hill to keep moving.

The work could help identify long-term solutions.

The slide began April 4 and the shifting ground has sheared one house in two. Four homes, two apartment buildings and several businesses remain evacuated while road damage has blocked access to about 30 other homes.

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