I've removed the slide show (put together by local news stationn KBZK) that used to be at the end of this post, as it was making everything else run ver-ry s-l-o-w-l-y. You can link to it here, though.
I was going to write a post celebrating the big snowfall we had last night, but given that a big chunk of Main Street blew up this morning, that seemed a little crass. Six inches of heavy, wet snow can’t be making things any easier for the dozens and dozens of emergency personnel trying to put out a gas-main fire, figure out if anyone was in the three buildings destroyed, and rescue them if the answer turns out to be “yes.”
I was driving to a doctor’s appointment around ten this morning when I saw the big, dirty plume stretching across the sky from—where? Somewhere downtown? Further west? I couldn’t tell. But something big must be burning. At the office one of the staff, who was following the story online and on the radio, told me that “Boodles exploded.”
Boodles happens to be one of the best restaurants in town and my personal favorite. It’s destroyed, and the two buildings to its east—one of them a three-storey tall, older brick building—have been leveled. Nobody knows anything for sure, except that there’s a big hole in Main Street, but there’s a lot of talk about gas leaks.
According to my source in the doctor’s office, the fire was still burning when I saw the smoke at ten, though the explosion had occurred two hours earlier. A gas main was burning and had to be left burning most of the day, because if it wasn’t burning it would be leaking, which could lead to another explosion. Why it took eight hours or so for Northwest Power to shut off the gas in that main I don’t know, but it did.
And as long as the fire was burning, crews—which had come from towns all around the area—couldn’t get near the rubble to search for possible survivors.
At intervals throughout the day, city officials held press conferences. At two in the afternoon, eleven people (and I guess that means people who might have been in those buildings) were unaccounted for. By evening news time, all save one has been located. And though the explosion reportedly tossed debris twice the height of the highest building destroyed, broke windows two blocks away, and sent cement blocks flying for more than a block, no one, so far, has been hurt.
If that explosion had taken place at eight in the evening instead of eight in the morning, Boodles would have been full, and there would have been a lot of deaths, and some horrible injuries. I think we have been extraordinarily lucky.
It’s not over yet: several blocks of Main Street will be closed off for days; a number of people have been evacuated from apartments above nearby buildings, and don’t know when they’ll be able to return. The difficult business of determining the cause of the blast has barely begun. Five to ten more inches of snow are expected over the next twenty-four hours. There are fears that where one blast occurred, others may follow.
Most important, we are still waiting to hear about one missing person.