The earth shook in western Pennsylvania Friday morning during a natural gas line explosion that could be felt up to 6 miles away, left a gaping hole in the ground and sent one man running for his life as the intense heat burned his body.
The 36-inch gas line blew around 8:30 a.m. Friday in Salem Township, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County. The injured man, who was hospitalized for severe burns, lived in a home about 500 yards away.
"He was in the home by himself. He heard a loud noise; he compared it to a tornado. And he started running up the roadway, and a passerby picked him up," said Fire Chief Bob Rossetti. "The heat was so intense it was burning him as he was running."
Some residents called for help, saying they thought an airplane had crashed, while others said it felt like an earthquake.
"I didn't know if it was a plane or what," said Scott Filipiak, who was driving in the area. "It darn near blew me off the highway!"
First responders from Forbes Road Fire Department saw a massive fireball as they drove toward the scene, but the fire was so hot, Rossetti parked a quarter of a mile away, thankful the area is relatively remote.
"Coming around the bend, and it looked like you were looking down into Hell," Rossetti said. His team doused a few houses with water to keep them from igniting.
The blast left a big hole in the ground with what appeared to be part of the pipeline, sticking out. The home closest to the explosion was destroyed. No one was there at the time.
"It burned the telephone poles off. It looks like a bomb went off."
Emergency responders evacuated businesses and homes within one mile of the explosion in the area where Routes 22 and 819 intersect, according to The Tribune-Review.
Texas Eastern Transmission owns and operates the natural gas line, according to the Associated Press.
Texas Eastern Transmission owns and operates the natural gas line, according to the Associated Press. The company’s emergency response team, along with the state’s police fire marshal and investigators from the Department of Energy will assess damage and let people know when they can go back home.