Sunday, April 29, 2007
I recorded the following audio clip of the gas-pipe explosion. At the time we were living 3 miles south of the explosion. Most of the sound you hear is of the gas escaping.
Click here: Audio recording of gas explosion.
Radio broadcast of the event.
PAWNEE, Ill. (AP) — An explosion in a natural gas pipeline southeast of Springfield sent a fireball several hundred feet into the air early Sunday, but caused no injuries, authorities said.
The pipeline break and explosion occurred about 4:40 a.m. in a farm field just north of Pawnee, in eastern Sangamon County, said Assistant Pawnee Fire Chief John Archer.
Archer said the 24-inch pipeline owned by the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co. failed at a spot near a creek bed and sent an orange fireball several hundred feet into the air.
Witnesses said they could see the inital fire from several miles away.
Archer said firefighters and hazardous materials workers intially tried to extinguish the fire with foam, but gave up on that effort after Panhandle Eastern workers turned off valves on either side of the break.
“We’re just going to let the residual gas burn off before they repair the pipeline,” Archer said shortly after 7 a.m.
Archer said one house about 100 yards from the pipeline suffered minor exterior damage from the heat of the fire and several woodlots also caught fire, but were quickly extinguished.
“It’s a mostly rural area, so there aren’t many people or houses around,” Archer said. “We evacuated between 50 and 75 people in the general area, but strictly as a precaution,” he said.
Pipeline Explodes ; Pawnee Farmer Worried About Injuries to Livestock
State Journal Register, Arrival Time: 2007-05-01
By AMANDA REAVY STAFF WRITER
Published Monday, April 30, 2007
PAWNEE – Jim Lederbrand’s long day showed no sign of ending late Sunday afternoon as he stood with binoculars in hand on his family’s scorched farmland just to the north of Pawnee.
Portions of charred trees continued to smolder, and the surrounding grass was blackened and reduced to ash in some areas nearly 12 hours after a natural gas pipeline exploded, launching a dramatic fireball through the area that raged for hours and extended hundreds of feet into the air.
No one was injured, but the blast’s extreme force shook Lederbrand’s nearby home and badly frightened his cows, 60 of which got loose while trying to escape the intense heat.
Once flames subsided, Lederbrand and nearly 40 family members, friends and employees scattered across the area searching for the cattle and surveying the damage. “It’s pretty extensive damage – tree loss and some buildings, feed bunks, stuff like that … It’s nothing that can’t be replaced, but just the idea of losing it all like that and you know the big thing is, we don’t know what kind of shape the cows are in,” he said.
Lederbrand’s farmland lies just south of Zion Road, directly adjacent to where the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co. pipeline broke and exploded about 4:30 a.m. in a field just north of where Zion dead-ends.
“We received a call from the Pawnee Police Department about 4:55 a.m. and then we sent our employees to the site and they closed the valves on both sides of the pipeline’s rupture area, which shuts off the flow of gas. The fire then burned itself out about 6:10 a.m.,” according to Panhandle spokesman John Barnett.
He said emergency officials evacuated one resident who lived about a third of a mile from the site.
Barnett said Sunday evening that investigators were still trying to determine what caused the rupture on the steel pipeline, which is 22 inches in diameter and sits near a creek bed.
“We have people who are in the area and we did also send engineers from Houston, Texas, which is where (Panhandle) is based,” Barnett said.
At about 4:30 p.m., the explosion site remained untouched by investigators or repair crews as a Panhandle maintenance worker stood by as water was pumped away from the pipe. The pipe, which sat about 3 feet under ground, was exposed after the blast and a 4-foot section of the pipe appeared to be blown out and laid twisted several yards away. Debbie Mueller, who lives north of the blast site on Delay Road, described the view outside her window as an “inferno” and recalled a continuous hissing noise as the gas fueled the blaze.
“You can’t imagine what it looked like unless you saw it, heard it or felt it,” she said. “Thank God it wasn’t in a neighborhood, can you imagine?”
Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson agreed.
“The closest house is about a third of a mile away, and the siding on the house was burned and melted. It was just unbelievable. I think we really dodged a bullet. As big as this was, it could have been much, much worse with the loss of life,” he said.
Lederbrand – who lives on Cotton Hill Road, only a half-mile south of where the blast occurred – recalled how the explosion awoke him from a sound sleep.
“It shook the house, and first, for a split-second, I thought it was an airplane crashing, and it had this loud, real loud, like a freight train going through, just constant (sound),” he recalled. “All I could see was a glowing orange out of the blinds of the windows … as soon as I looked down there, there were shooting flames, 500 to 600 feet in the air.”
When he opened his garage door, Lederbrand said he could feel the heat hitting his face.
After calling 911, he realized he had 60 cows penned in a nearby barn so he, his father and uncle went to rescue them. “The barn was so hot, you couldn’t even touch the gates. I mean, it would just burn you to touch anything,” he said. “Most of the cows had run through the fence, and they’re scattered all over the county now, but we still had some locked up in the barn, and we were able to get them out and saved all of them. We just wanted to get them turned loose, we didn’t care where they went.”
With about 20 people on horseback, Lederbrand’s family managed to round up about 22 of the missing cows.
“We haven’t lost any yet, but we don’t know how bad some of them were burned. A lot of them got burns on them, and we don’t know how much smoke inhalation they’ve gotten in their lungs,” he said.
Lederbrand said it was between 35 and 45 minutes before firefighters were able to get to the explosion site.
“But there was nothing they could do when it was burning like that. They had to wait for the gas to burn out before they could even get close to it, and basically all they were doing then was putting out grass fires around it,” he said. Lederbrand said there are several pipelines in the area but they never worried him before.
“They won’t let you build within so many feet of it, but there’s never been any reason for anybody to be worried about it,” he said.
Barnett said investigators will have to evaluate the ruptured pipe as it stood following the blast before any repairs can be made. He added that such explosions are extremely rare. “We do everything that we possibly can to ensure the safety of the pipeline as well as the safety of any residents living near the pipeline,” he said. “They are monitored 24 hours a day from our control center here in Houston, and, in addition, we do have people who inspect the pipelines and they are constantly maintained.”
Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525 or amanda.reavy@….
Pipeline Blast’s Cause Still Unknown ; Probe Could Take Weeks; Farmers Say Land Damaged
State Journal Register, Arrival Time: 2007-05-02
By JAYETTE BOLINSKI and AMANDA REAVY STAFF WRITERS
Alvies said the fireball damaged about half of the roughly nine acres east of the site and about 4 acres of a similar-sized field to the west. The intense heat disintegrated a woven wire fence and steel posts near the pipeline and melted a portion of nearby roadway that later resolidified.
The land immediately surrounding the blast site is “like volcanic ash,” he said. “To try to plant something in that would be like trying to plant on this carpet or concrete,” he said Monday.