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Panhandle Eastern begins investigation of Howard County pipeline explosion

Thursday, May 21, 2009 | 2:11 p.m. CDT; updated 11:17 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 21, 2009
The Howard County pipeline that exploded around 9 p.m. Wednesday night shot fire more than 100 feet into the air.

COLUMBIA — Panhandle Eastern Pipeline began an investigation Thursday into the natural gas explosion that took place late Wednesday in Howard County, Panhandle Eastern spokesman John Barnett said.

It will take time to determine the cause of the blast, Barnett said.

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The pipeline exploded in an open field at about 9 p.m. Wednesday northwest of U.S. 40 on the Boone/Howard county line, according to a news release from the Boone County Fire Protection District. Six firetrucks and more than 30 firefighters from Boone County responded to the scene, where they were able to surround the fire.

Gale Blomenkamp, division chief of the Fire Protection District, said both the Boone County and the Howard County fire districts responded to the explosion, which caused flames to shoot more than 100 feet into the air. The explosion was about 15 miles from Columbia, and it could be seen from Columbia city limits.

No one was hurt in the incident, though several families were evacuated from the area just after the explosion. After about an hour, Howard County fire officials took control of the situation and released Boone County units. Blomenkamp said the fire burned until about 11:30 p.m.  Families were able to return to their homes shortly thereafter.  

Panhandle Eastern crews were able to close valves on either side of the rupture just after the blast, allowing the gas to burn out, Barnett said. 

Blomenkamp said it was fortunate the natural gas ignited after the pipe ruptured.

"It’s safest for it to be on fire, because when it's being consumed by the fire it can't be pushed by prevailing winds,” Blomenkamp said.


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