February 24, 2009

Manchester Gas Explosion

Jim C. sent this story along:

A man died in an explosion before dawn today that leveled a ranch-style home on Barrett Street in the city's North End, according to fire officials. [...]

Kenneth Warnock, who lives across the street at 621 Fairfield St., said he was awakened by a "very large explosion" that shook his house. He looked out the window to see his neighbor's house totally in flames. - One dead in house explosion, UnionLeader.com

This is the second residential gas explosion in New England in less than a week. It's the fourth such explosion in this region in the past three months (the other two were in Scituate and Gloucester).

This explosion adds one more data point to a comment on the Somerset explosion that appeared in the Saturday Globe:

"I would say these explosions are early warning flags, if nothing else," said Stephen Connors, director of analysis at the MIT Energy Initiative. "There's a body of evidence that our infrastructure is reaching old age and it needs the equivalent of a knee and hip replacement. This is not a new issue. We want to keep water, gas, and electricity rates down, but we don't want to keep them down so much that it endangers public safety." - Before explosion, gas crew waved off help, Boston.com

Also in that Globe story, there was a gas crew in Somerset investigating a leak in the neighborhood of New York Ave, and a fire department crew was also on the scene. Clearly, the urgency of the problem in Somerset was underestimated by that crew; they must have been unaware that a dangerous amount of gas had already accumulated in the first floor of the house at 93 New York Ave.

Are we seeing a rise in gas explosions because of deteriorating infrastructure, caused by a reluctance to take on the cost of maintenance? At 4 explosions in 3 months, it would seem at least worthy of investigation.

Infrastructure degrades. In some cases, environmental factors, and even rodents can cause a dangerous situation in the delivery of gas.

It is worrying; we have gas heat at our house and have never had much of a problem (I would have blogged about it if our house had exploded ever). But my parents, also Somerset residents, have been smelling gas in their neighborhood. I could smell it last time I was there. I know they'd already alerted the gas company to the issue. I wonder how many similar complaints New England Gas Company is going to field in the wake of this incident.

Posted by James at February 24, 2009 11:40 AM
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Yikes! That's enough to make you more than a little nervous. I think you need some solar panels and a giant windmill. Kick the habit while you still can. That last was tongue-n-cheek. It's too bad that there is not a feasible alternative. Hopefully, they can investigate and either upgrade the infra or set people's minds at ease that it is safe.

Posted by: briwei at February 24, 2009 12:16 PM

I heard about the Manchester explosion this morning as I was driving out of NH into MA. We have gas at our house. I've been grateful for that over the last few years as heating oil prices have soared and fluctuated so wildly. Plus, I really do love cooking with gas.

Now, I'm thinking briwei's got a good point with his (mostly) tongue-in-check offering.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at February 24, 2009 1:01 PM

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the news this morning of the gas explosion in Manchester, NH.

It may very well be a coincidence, but this merits an investigation of the integrity of our gas supply infrastructure here in NE.

Posted by: Patti M. at February 24, 2009 2:10 PM

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