Last night my friend Corey had stopped over, and we were talking about the Halifax Explosion. It reminded me another explosion from my home town of Edison, New Jersey in 1994.

I was in my room watching TV, when I heard what sounded like an airplane flying overhead, but it was more constant and not fleeting like normal planes.   I didn’t think much of it, since Newark airport was in a close vicinity to where we lived, that hearing planes was common.   I had gotten up to let my dog out in the backyard, so when I went out the backdoor, and saw a huge column of fire in the sky, I was shocked.  It looked like it might be a house a few blocks away, but indeed it was a few miles away.

I quickly ran into the house, and told my parents, to which my dad responded “Let’s get in the car and go see where it is!” (My dad was cool like that!).  So my dad, brother, and I jumped in the car, and made our way toward the huge column in the sky.   As we drove near,  the shear size of the fire was something you can’t believe until you get closer.   Obviously with people fleeing from the area, you could not get too close, but I was close enough to feel the heat, and know I didn’t want to be closer.

That night the news channels in NYC, would show the column of fire in the distance as taken by cameras on rooftops in Manhattan.

That night,  hundreds fled from their homes.  It turns out my high school would be turned into a relief shelter for the people displaced from their homes, where I spent a few days volunteering to help distribute supplies donated by local businesses.  Fortunately, only one person had lost their life due to a heart attack, and no one was harmed directly from the blast.  So anyway, what brings me to this, is that while chatting with Corey,  I quickly searched on the web for any mention of the explosion.  Much to my surprise someone who had been there that night, had the foresight to video tape the chaos, and has uploaded it to the web.

There is a Wikipedia entry dubbed “Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion and Fire” which lists the cause of the fire as:

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation found a gouge in the pipe, probably caused by excavation equipment years earlier; in combination with brittle pipe material and excessive operating pressures likely led to the rupture. NTSB also found fault with the lack of automatic or remote-controlled shutoff valves: the manual valves were difficult to reach and close, preventing operators from promptly cutting off gas that fueled the fire. Also, NTSB found that Texas Eastern failed to adequate monitor excavation activity on its right of way.

You can view the video here and see the fire for yourself:

It is interesting to note that the national OneCall system was put in place due to the events that transpired during this accident.
More info can be found in the Wikipedia article on this event.