Pipeline explosion rocks Caldwell County
By LPR Staff
The ground was shaking.
It sounded like thunder, but longer.
Throughout Caldwell County on Thursday morning, residents felt and heard a rumbling and felt tremors, which many dismissed as residual from the week”s earlier storms.
Within moments, however, Caldwell County dispatchers knew the rumbling was someth
“Our dispatchers received almost 40 calls from residents that said they felt or heard an explosion,” Sheriff Daniel C. Law said. The calls, it turns out, were reports of an explosion near Prairie Lea, just off Plant Road.
Initial calls from the area reported an explosion at one of the petroleum plants on Plant Road between Prairie Lea and Stairtown. Many felt and heard the explosion, and some witnesses reported flames towering up to 400 feet in the sky. Shockwaves were felt near the explosion site, but residents more than 12 miles away, in and around Lockhart, reported hearing and feeling the rumble.
“At around 7:37 a.m., we received the first call and started to head out,” said Chuck Cutshall, assistant chief of the McMahan Volunteer Fire Department. “When we got here, it was burning so hot that you could feel it from a good ways away.”
Cutshall said the explosion was caused by the rupture of a 36-inch natural gas pipeline running through the area. The Oasis pipeline, according Vicki Granado, a spokesperson for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, carries natural gas from the Permian Basin in West Texas to Katy, where it is then distributed to customers.
The pipeline has a closure valve located in Delhi near Highway 304, which was closed within minutes of the explosion, according to Law.
“Everything here worked just the way it was supposed to,” he said. “The gauges in the plant started falling, and when they start falling, that means that the gas is going somewhere. They got the valve closed down at 304, and now they”re watching that to make sure the valves hold, and they really just have to let the gas burn out of the pipe.”
Cutshall said fire crews stayed on the scene to monitor the situation and to assist Energy Tranfer Partners with the investigation.
“We”re here to make sure there are no residual fires as a result,” Cutshall said. “We can”t really battle the initial fire – that just has to burn itself out. But with everything as dry as it”s been, there is some danger that it could spark grass fires and we want to make sure that the surrounding homes and properties are protected.”
At least two grass fires were reported in the area on Thursday afternoon, but it was unclear whether they were directly related to Thursday morning”s blast.
Representatives from Energy Transfer Partners will be conducting an investigation into the explosion, and both Cutshall and Law declined to speculate on what might have been the cause. Instead, both focused on the fact that there had been no injuries.
“If something like this is going to happen, and you hope it never does, but if it has to, this is the kind of area that you want it to happen in,” Law said. The “kind of area” he elaborated, was a sparsely populated area, where the nearest homes were a quarter-mile or more away.
Cutshall confirmed that some of the area evacuated, but said the evacuations were voluntary. He said people chose to leave their homes, either to go to work or for safety purposes, but none were asked or forced to leave.
Less than two miles away, classes went on as normal inside the Prairie Lea School.