The chemical styrene — an oily, colorless liquid chemical — leaked for almost four hours after the initial spill.
Local officials and CSX Transportation workers rushed to notify about 400 area households, urging them to evacuate the area early Wednesday morning.
Since then, around-the-clock cleanup efforts and tests measuring Willard’s air quality have occurred.
Authorities constantly reiterated how the air quality is now safe in most areas.
Almost all residents could return to their homes after the evacuation alert in these areas ended around 5 p.m. Thursday, according to Willard’s official Twitter page maintained by city officials.
An evacuation order for a few homes on Pleasant Street, North Main Street and Church Street remained in effect as of Thursday night.
Before then, however, more than 200 people sought shelter at an American Red Cross relief station set up inside the high school. Others stayed at hotels paid for by CSX or with nearby family members.
CSX also fronted cash so a caterer could still provide displaced residents inside the high school with a hearty Thanksgiving meal.
People, most seemingly in good spirits, ate heaping portions of turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie at cafeteria tables.
Kasich, who came midway through the meal, talked to various people, offering condolences for the unfortunate situation occurring on such a festive holiday.
“Willard is an example of how you do it right, from the first responders to the people that have been on the ground managing it,” Kasich said in a brief statement to media members. “This is the way you do things when it’s tough, and it’s tough on Thanksgiving.”
Among the people Kasich briefly talked with was Adrian Lovo.
The Second Street resident urged Kasich to make the trains travel slower in neighborhoods in hopes of avoiding another catastrophe.
“We don’t ever want to receive a call that something like this happened,” Lovo said. “My wife and family are in a hotel right now because they don’t think it’s safe outside. They don’t want to be outside. They need to think about lowering the speed, and the trains need to slow down.”
Keefer Street resident Nicole Feagin also chatted with Kasich.
Feagin said she’s lucky authorities took quick and decisive action to evacuate people living in a danger zone.
“The positive from all this is the alert system, the police and CSX handled the situation tremendously,” Feagin said.