February 19, 2009

Somerset Explosion

We felt an explosion around 6:15 PM this evening. It was as though something large (like a car) had smashed into the house.

Maggie and I ran outside to see if the house was damaged and I was sure we'd find some evidence of a collision until I saw a neighbor come outside and inspect his own house. Clearly this was something larger that we were both feeling.

Maggie called the police, they told her it was a house explosion and quickly got off the line. Soon, we heard it was a gas explosion. Here's what I know so far:

  • 1 house was completely leveled by the explosion. On New York Ave in Somerset, MA.
  • 2 other houses are on fire at this time around NY Ave and RI Ave.
  • Hundreds of people have been evacuated in the surrounding neighborhood - three streets in the area of Americana Terrace
  • There is one confirmed death, being reported by WSAR.
  • They are having crowd control problems as curious people rush to the area.
  • Units are responding to the emergency from as far as Providence, RI and Mattapoisett, MA.

Update 7:40PM

  • I heard there were work crews in the area at the time of the explosion. I have no idea if they were gas crews or what they were working on.

Update 7:45

  • They are setting up a shelter at Chace St. School for evacuees from Americana Terrace. Pets are allowed.
  • We are not within the evacuation area. We live around 1.5 miles away.

Update 8:25

  • Getting further info about the explosion is tough.
  • Local news (WBZ) was monitoring Twitter looking for an interview. I told them I wasn't close enough to give them anything other than what's already on this blog, which is not much additional first-person detail. It's cool the part that real-time on-line media plays as a source for keeping people in contact.

Update 8:29

  • I must admit, my first instinct after we felt the explosion was to go out looking for the cause. Remember when Maggie, Ryan and I heard the power plant venting last summer? Then, once I knew where the explosion was, again I felt like grabbing a camera and going. Of course, reason overcame that impulse. I'm not a trained rescue worker nor a journalist. There are times when it's appropriate to approach a scene and this isn't one of those times. I at least understand the impulse but people need to STAY FAR AWAY and let the response teams do their work.

Update 8:35

Update 8:43

Update 9:31

  • NECN now reporting that a middle-aged woman and a dog are confirmed dead in the explosion or resulting fire.
  • Apparently neighbors reporting an "overwhelming odor of gas" earlier in the day and seeing trucks doing work. (Make that a fire truck)

After feeling the house shake and hearing the news, youngest daughter is worried about gas explosions. Seems a lot more frightening and real when you actually feel it. Maggie tells me that the force of the blast blew a hole the size of a garage door in a house next door to the house that was destroyed. I believe it. At our house it felt like a big hand had smacked the house. Maggie described it as a car hitting the house, and I suppose it was like that, but there was no "crash" -- it was more blunt. The frightening thing was that we didn't just hear and feel it, the house moved with the shock.

Update Noon

  • Fall River Herald News reporting that police are starting to enter houses at noon, looking for any other people who may have been victims of the blast. Also, they are trying ot contact any residents who wish to return to their homes:
  • Police Captain John Solomito asked that anyone displaced by the explosion contact police. He said provided the following numbers: 508-674-1444 and 508-679-2138. Solomito said police need to know your home address, name and a phone number where callers can be contacted.
  • In a separate Herald Story, they've got more reaction to the explosion. A school bus was used to transport the stunned neighborhood residents to the shelter.

Update 12:16 PM

  • The Herald now has some pretty dramatic pictures in this story.
  • Police Captain Solomito named the one victim: 62-year-old Rosemarie Rebello. She was apparently found in front of the residence.
  • The photos show a flattened pile of debris where the house used to be. An adjacent house has a gaping hole torn in it, surrounded by shredded building materials.
Posted by James at February 19, 2009 7:30 PM
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Comments

Yikes, that is scary. Do you know what caused it? You said it felt like a car hit your house, about how far away are you? Are you in the evacuation?

Posted by: Eric at February 19, 2009 7:49 PM

We're about 1.5 miles away and the evacuation is only in the surrounding streets, if I understand correctly.

Posted by: James at February 19, 2009 7:55 PM

Glad to hear you're okay, sir. We're quite a ways off, just finding out now.

Posted by: Adam Darowski at February 19, 2009 8:14 PM

Holy crap!! I'm glad it wasn't any closer to your house, but it sounds like it was plenty close enough if you could feel it.

Posted by: Julie at February 19, 2009 8:22 PM

Fantastic reporting! And nice to hear that local news was monitoring Twitter. Good going. And glad you're safe.

Posted by: Nancy at February 19, 2009 8:40 PM

Again, glad to hear you're okay.

Posted by: Bull at February 19, 2009 8:52 PM

Oy! So glad to hear you are OK! SCARY.

Posted by: Karen at February 19, 2009 9:14 PM

You're right; it was hard to get information, but you've provided great coverage, as always. Thank you for that, and best wishes to all.

Posted by: PJ at February 19, 2009 9:41 PM

I'm not sure I ever want to be in the house again if there's gas work being done outside.

Posted by: James at February 19, 2009 9:47 PM

Holy Crap! That's frightening! I'm glad to hear you guys are safe. Keep us posted.

Posted by: Chuck S. at February 20, 2009 12:13 AM

News feeds were slow and sporadic last night. I was surprised the first crawl I saw was on WCVB Boston and not one of the RI stations.

Thanks for keeping us in the loop on Twitter last night and for your clear summary on your blog.

Posted by: Patti M. at February 20, 2009 9:18 AM

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