MO - LNG pipeline break , fire : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

From St Joseph News-Press May 2


TRACY, Mo. — Officials say it could be three weeks before they determine the cause of an explosion that sent flames 300 feet in the air and spilled 500 barrels of liquid natural gas. The 10-inch pipeline containing liquid natural gas erupted on a Platte County farm at approximately 11 a.m. Tuesday, said Jerry Adair, area manager for Williams Energy Services, owner of the pipeline. Mid-America Pipeline Co. serves as operator of the pipeline for Williams. Several valves were closed before the damaged pipe was located, Mr. Adair said, but within an hour and a half, the correct valve was shut off. The Central Platte County and West Platte County fire departments responded to the explosion.

Missouri Highway 273 between Platte City and Tracy will be closed until investigators have determined the road is safe for travel.

No one was injured in the blaze that shot several hundred feet in the air, said Shelle Browning, public information officer with the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. She said the fire was contained by early afternoon and was extinguished by 3 p.m. Tuesday. She added that homeowners near the blaze were notified of the rupture and could evacuate if they wanted. One homeowner did evacuate, Ms. Browning said.

Steve Fry, owner of Weston Red Barn Farm, said his farm is a quarter mile from where the explosion occurred.

At the time of the explosion, 90 kindergarten students from Kansas City, Kan., were at Red Barn Farm. Mr. Fry said when they realized what happened, the students were taken on a hayride and hike on the opposite side of where the fire was.

“I’ve never seen a fire that large before,” Mr. Fry said. “It looked like a picture from the Gulf War with flames about 300 feet in the air. All the trees were burnt to a crisp. It was quite a dangerous deal.”

Mr. Fry said the explosion sounded like an airplane that had crashed.

Desiree Siefkas, an employee at Norman Landscraft, located approximately one mile from where the explosion occurred, also heard the loud explosion.

“I could feel the heat from the flames,” Ms. Siefkas said. “I turned around and saw the sky was orange. I immediately called 911, but they had already received calls.”

L.R. Vaughn, who owns a 49-acre apple orchard directly south of where the explosion occurred, said that approximately 50 trees were burned or affected by the fire. Mr. Vaughn was in Platte City where he could see the flames and knew the explosion was in the same area as his orchard.

“I was scared to death, at first I thought it was on my orchard,” Mr. Vaughn said. “I thought something might have happened to some of my men working there. They were all right, but really shaken up because they felt it. The explosion ended up being just across the highway.”

Mr. Vaughn said he is going to leave the affected trees alone and see what will happen to them.

It will take approximately three weeks for a cause of the fire to be determined. Mr. Adair said there are several things that could have caused the rupture in the line.

The explosion didn’t affect local residents, because of the type of customers the line services.

Mr. Adair said the pipeline begins in McPherson, Kan., and serves chemical plants in Iowa and Illinois. The pipeline is 27 years old, and Mr. Adair said the pipe is supposed to last indefinitely. He wouldn’t speculate on the cause of the break until officials could survey and inspect the area.

-- Sam Hatheway (, May 02, 2001

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