Archive for March 17th, 2011

Minneapolis Natural Gas Explosion, 17 March 2011

A huge natural gas fire rocked south Minneapolis earlier this morning, forcing a good-sized evacuation, shutting down interstate 35W, and leaving a good-sized hole in the ground. Centerpoint Energy – the local gas company – have been quick to call it a “fire”, while the media seem to prefer the term “explosion”, pointing out that fires don’t leave enormous holes in the ground.

They’re right, of course. They’re just thinking about things wrong.

WCCO TV has been showing aerial footage of the hole/crater, and it’s clear that it contains a large gas main, a storm sewer, and a utility (cable/fiber, probably, possibly electrical) trench.

I think there’s a very good chance that what happened was actually a storm sewer failure, where melting snow and ice from our current warm weather (it reached the low 50s yesterday) leaked/eroded from one of Minneapolis’ notoriously poorly-maintained sewers and washed out a large void under the street, essentially undermining the gas main in the process and subsequently causing it to collapse and fail.

Time will tell whether I’m right or not, but I have high confidence it’ll prove to have been snowmelt washing out a void under the street.

Published in: Geekiness, General | on March 17th, 2011 | No Comments »