A gas explosion in the small town of Knifely, Kentucky provided a frightening awakening for residents early Thursday morning. A natural gas line lying underneath the rural area of about 100 people is owned and operated by the Columbia Gulf Transmission. It is not connected to any residents in Knifely, but transports gas from the Gulf of Mexico to New York.
The explosion erupted sometime around 1 am CST, when Adair county residents felt the ground rumbling beneath them. Suddenly, a fire ball burst through the ground and swallowed up three homes. Fire fighters were able to salvage one of the homes, but the other two were destroyed. Two barns and at least six vehicles also went up in flames. Two people were taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries.
As emergency crews responded to the gas explosion, it took until 6 am to wrestle the fires into a manageable situation. Once the fires were under control, they could assess the situation. The results were catastrophic.
“There is now a crater 60 feet deep and it blew rocks out, and I don’t mean pebbles… big rocks,” said Adair County Emergency Management Agency director Greg Thomas. The gas line sat about 60 feet down into the ground and was only about 30 inches around. The entire town, about 20-30 homes, had to be evacuated for safety measures, according to NBC affiliate Wave3.
By 8 am, with the help of daylight, it was clear that most of the fires were out. Some of the surrounding wooded areas were still smoking. According to WDRB, power was cut to some homes while emergency crews examine water lines, roads, and other utilities for any damage done by the gas explosion.
Katie Dupuis Martin, the Manager of External Communications for Columbia Gulf Transmission, released a statement soon after the news broke. Technicians apparently detected a sudden drop in pressure in the methane gas line. Whatever caused the pressure to become unstable is most likely the reason for the explosion. Martin added, “crews immediately responded to the alert and determined that there was a rupture in the pipeline.” The statement added that Columbia intends to work “with the appropriate authorities to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.”
The line has been closed off at both ends and crews are waiting for the fire to burn off completely. Loud explosions are expected to still be heard until the line is completely cleared. The busted line could spell big trouble for the northeastern United States. With more winter weather headed that way, a natural gas explosion like this could effect customers and prices.