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:Â Audio recording of gas explosion.
Radio broadcast of the event.
PAWNEE, Ill. (AP) — An explosion in a natural gas pipeline southeastÂ of Springfield sent a fireball several hundred feet into the air earlyÂ Sunday, but caused no injuries, authorities said.
The pipeline break and explosion occurred about 4:40 a.m. in a farmÂ field just north of Pawnee, in eastern Sangamon County, said AssistantÂ Pawnee Fire Chief John Archer.
Archer said the 24-inch pipeline owned by the Panhandle EasternÂ Pipeline Co. failed at a spot near a creek bed and sent an orangeÂ 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 triedÂ to extinguish the fire with foam, but gave up on that effort afterÂ 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 repairÂ the pipeline,” Archer said shortly after 7 a.m.
Archer said one house about 100 yards from the pipeline suffered minorÂ exterior damage from the heat of the fire and several woodlots alsoÂ caught fire, but were quickly extinguished.
“It’s a mostly rural area, so there aren’t many people or housesÂ around,” Archer said. “We evacuated between 50 and 75 people in theÂ 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 ofÂ ending late Sunday afternoon as he stood with binocularsÂ in hand on his family’s scorched farmland just to theÂ north of Pawnee.
Portions of charred trees continued to smolder, and theÂ surrounding grass was blackened and reduced to ash inÂ some areas nearly 12 hours after a natural gas pipelineÂ exploded, launching a dramatic fireball through the areaÂ that raged for hours and extended hundreds of feet intoÂ the air.
No one was injured, but the blast’s extreme force shookÂ Lederbrand’s nearby home and badly frightened his cows,Â 60 of which got loose while trying to escape the intenseÂ heat.
Once flames subsided, Lederbrand and nearly 40 familyÂ members, friends and employees scattered across the areaÂ searching for the cattle and surveying the damage.Â “It’s pretty extensive damage – tree loss and someÂ buildings, feed bunks, stuff like that â€¦ It’s nothingÂ that can’t be replaced, but just the idea of losing itÂ all like that and you know the big thing is, we don’tÂ know what kind of shape the cows are in,” he said.
Lederbrand’s farmland lies just south of Zion Road,Â directly adjacent to where the Panhandle Eastern PipelineÂ Co. pipeline broke and exploded about 4:30 a.m. in a fieldÂ just north of where Zion dead-ends.
“We received a call from the Pawnee Police Department aboutÂ 4:55 a.m. and then we sent our employees to the site andÂ they closed the valves on both sides of the pipeline’sÂ rupture area, which shuts off the flow of gas. The fireÂ then burned itself out about 6:10 a.m.,” according toÂ Panhandle spokesman John Barnett.
He said emergency officials evacuated one resident who livedÂ about a third of a mile from the site.
Barnett said Sunday evening that investigators were stillÂ trying to determine what caused the rupture on the steelÂ pipeline, which is 22 inches in diameter and sits near aÂ creek bed.
“We have people who are in the area and we did also sendÂ engineers from Houston, Texas, which is where (Panhandle)Â is based,” Barnett said.
At about 4:30 p.m., the explosion site remained untouched byÂ investigators or repair crews as a Panhandle maintenanceÂ worker stood by as water was pumped away from the pipe.Â The pipe, which sat about 3 feet under ground, was exposedÂ after the blast and a 4-foot section of the pipe appearedÂ to be blown out and laid twisted several yards away.Â Debbie Mueller, who lives north of the blast site on DelayÂ Road, described the view outside her window as an “inferno”Â and recalled a continuous hissing noise as the gas fueledÂ the blaze.
“You can’t imagine what it looked like unless you saw it,Â heard it or felt it,” she said. “Thank God it wasn’t in aÂ neighborhood, can you imagine?”
Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson agreed.
“The closest house is about a third of a mile away, and theÂ siding on the house was burned and melted. It was justÂ unbelievable. I think we really dodged a bullet. As big asÂ this was, it could have been much, much worse with the lossÂ of life,” he said.
Lederbrand – who lives on Cotton Hill Road, only a half-mileÂ south of where the blast occurred – recalled how theÂ explosion awoke him from a sound sleep.
“It shook the house, and first, for a split-second, I thoughtÂ it was an airplane crashing, and it had this loud, real loud,Â like a freight train going through, just constant (sound),”Â he recalled. “All I could see was a glowing orange out of theÂ blinds of the windows â€¦ as soon as I looked down there, thereÂ were shooting flames, 500 to 600 feet in the air.”
When he opened his garage door, Lederbrand said he could feelÂ the heat hitting his face.
After calling 911, he realized he had 60 cows penned in aÂ nearby barn so he, his father and uncle went to rescue them.Â “The barn was so hot, you couldn’t even touch the gates. IÂ mean, it would just burn you to touch anything,” he said.Â “Most of the cows had run through the fence, and they’reÂ scattered all over the county now, but we still had someÂ locked up in the barn, and we were able to get them out andÂ saved all of them. We just wanted to get them turned loose,Â we didn’t care where they went.”
With about 20 people on horseback, Lederbrand’s family managedÂ to round up about 22 of the missing cows.
“We haven’t lost any yet, but we don’t know how bad some ofÂ them were burned. A lot of them got burns on them, and weÂ don’t know how much smoke inhalation they’ve gotten in theirÂ lungs,” he said.
Lederbrand said it was between 35 and 45 minutes beforeÂ firefighters were able to get to the explosion site.
“But there was nothing they could do when it was burning likeÂ that. They had to wait for the gas to burn out before theyÂ could even get close to it, and basically all they wereÂ doing then was putting out grass fires around it,” he said.Â Lederbrand said there are several pipelines in the area butÂ they never worried him before.
“They won’t let you build within so many feet of it, butÂ there’s never been any reason for anybody to be worried aboutÂ it,” he said.
Barnett said investigators will have to evaluate the rupturedÂ pipe as it stood following the blast before any repairs can beÂ made. He added that such explosions are extremely rare.Â “We do everything that we possibly can to ensure the safety ofÂ the pipeline as well as the safety of any residents livingÂ near the pipeline,” he said. “They are monitored 24 hours aÂ day from our control center here in Houston, and, in addition,Â we do have people who inspect the pipelines and they areÂ 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.