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Old 13th September 2018, 04:07 PM   #1
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39 fires and explosions in Lawrence Mass

https://boston.cbslocal.com/2018/09/...north-andover/

Sections of South Lawrence, Andover and North Andover impacted
• The issue is related to a high pressure gas main, possibly over-pressurized
• All residents in that region served by Columbia Gas told to evacuate
• Dozens of fires reported in homes in the region
• 39 Fires extinguished in Andover alone
• Evacuation centers: Andover Senior Center and Youth Center, North Andover Middle School and High School
• FBI is on scene “as we normally would be” for multiple explosions
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Old 13th September 2018, 04:10 PM   #2
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The pictures are horrible. Completely leveled houses. No word on deaths yet.
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Old 13th September 2018, 04:16 PM   #3
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Up to 60+ fires and explosions
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Old 13th September 2018, 04:17 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by applecorped View Post
Up to 60+ fires and explosions
What? Wowzah.
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Old 13th September 2018, 04:26 PM   #5
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There are reports of up to 100 fires burning.

Has anything like this happened anywhere before?
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Old 13th September 2018, 04:29 PM   #6
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" too early to speculate on motive. Joint investigation pending"
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Old 13th September 2018, 04:32 PM   #7
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Here's a map of where the fires are at. I don't think it's complete.

https://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/newpix/2...6879897800.jpg
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Old 13th September 2018, 04:34 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
There are reports of up to 100 fires burning.

Has anything like this happened anywhere before?
Sadly yes, although of course we'll have to wait until details about this particular incident to make direct comparisons.

Some recent examples are the 7 killed when a gasline explosion leveled an apartment building in Silver Springs, Maryland in 2016, the Richmond Hill Explosion in 2012 which killed 2 and destroyed 33 homes, and a series of apartment buildings being destroyed in Harlam by a gas line explosion that killed 8 in 2014.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_explosion
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Old 13th September 2018, 04:42 PM   #9
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That whole Wiki list appears to be single explosions with much damage and deaths. What's happening now are fires/explosions all over the place. It seems different.
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Old 13th September 2018, 04:45 PM   #10
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I remember the Edison, NJ fires as a kid. But, again, I believe that was a single, massive explosion. Destructive as all hell, though. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison..._gas_explosion
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Old 13th September 2018, 05:44 PM   #11
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Major pressure spike is all I can think of.
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Old 13th September 2018, 06:17 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
Major pressure spike is all I can think of.
What causes that?
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Old 13th September 2018, 07:52 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
What causes that?
Dunno. Perhaps sudden closing of a valve during high flow, although I'd expect that to be more of a problem with liquids.
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Old 13th September 2018, 08:12 PM   #14
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This hasn't made even a splash in my local media. Which is unusual.
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Old 13th September 2018, 08:15 PM   #15
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Damn, like there isn't enough to worry about. Am I to understand that the natural gas feed to my house could just cause it to blow up through no fault in the NG fixtures!?!?
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Old 13th September 2018, 09:02 PM   #16
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It's been all over the local news here. So far the report is one death (a chimney collapsed and killed a man in a car).
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Old 13th September 2018, 09:16 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Distracted1 View Post
Damn, like there isn't enough to worry about. Am I to understand that the natural gas feed to my house could just cause it to blow up through no fault in the NG fixtures!?!?
(Complete speculation on my part), but it's pretty unlikely that the individual feed to your house is likely to fail. Most other events like this don't have to do with home fittings. The stuff in your house is pretty robust, and the pipes are relatively small. If there were overpressure in the line, the forces on your home pipes don't rise that much.

But the main is much larger. An overpressure there creates much larger forces and that's where the failure is likely.

This one is just weird. I've not seen this type of effect before. I await more information about what happened.

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Old 13th September 2018, 09:33 PM   #18
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Just hit my local news.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-1...homes/10246188
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Old 14th September 2018, 10:59 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
That whole Wiki list appears to be single explosions with much damage and deaths. What's happening now are fires/explosions all over the place. It seems different.
The Cleveland gas explosion strictly speaking was two "single explosions", but those explosions traveled through the sewers and gas lines and erupted into multiple homes and businesses, much like this event.
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Old 14th September 2018, 11:05 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
Dunno. Perhaps sudden closing of a valve during high flow, although I'd expect that to be more of a problem with liquids.
You had me curious so I looked it up and apparently fluid hammers can indeed happen to gasses, although you are right that it is more commonly a liquid thing.
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Old 14th September 2018, 11:16 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
You had me curious so I looked it up and apparently fluid hammers can indeed happen to gasses, although you are right that it is more commonly a liquid thing.
Years ago I did some work with high pressure gas valves and the first thing the guy in charge told me when trying to explain the problems they were having was to just assume it is a liquid and it will all make more sense.

But that was inside processing plants, not distribution lines. Distribution lines should be high volume and relatively low pressure. This is very odd.
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Old 14th September 2018, 11:18 AM   #22
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From an article (this particular one was in Slate).

Quote:
The company had announced Thursday morning that it was conducting upgrade projects around the state, including in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence.

I don't think this upgrade project went well. Someone's day at work was seriously bad. I'm glad I'm in a line of work where it is almost (although not quite) impossible to cause an accident that involves serious property damage or loss of life. It's bad enough when the finger pointing goes on about who released a software bug, or who made the decision that caused the project to lose money. Having an "oops" moment that makes the news would really suck.
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Old 14th September 2018, 11:23 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
From an article (this particular one was in Slate).




I don't think this upgrade project went well. Someone's day at work was seriously bad. I'm glad I'm in a line of work where it is almost (although not quite) impossible to cause an accident that involves serious property damage or loss of life. It's bad enough when the finger pointing goes on about who released a software bug, or who made the decision that caused the project to lose money. Having an "oops" moment that makes the news would really suck.
This didn't just make the news. This is making history.
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Old 14th September 2018, 12:18 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by BowlOfRed View Post
(Complete speculation on my part), but it's pretty unlikely that the individual feed to your house is likely to fail. Most other events like this don't have to do with home fittings. The stuff in your house is pretty robust, and the pipes are relatively small. If there were overpressure in the line, the forces on your home pipes don't rise that much.

But the main is much larger. An overpressure there creates much larger forces and that's where the failure is likely.

This one is just weird. I've not seen this type of effect before. I await more information about what happened.
I think you are generally correct in the first paragraph, but suspect that in this case there may have been installations in the 39 homes that were good enough for normal service but not up to snuff for the overpressure in this instance. Even perhaps some DIY work, who knows? My suspicion is that the failures may have occurred at connections to things like furnaces and water heaters that had pilot lights.
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Old 14th September 2018, 12:20 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
I'm glad I'm in a line of work where it is almost (although not quite) impossible to cause an accident that involves serious property damage or loss of life. It's bad enough when the finger pointing goes on about who released a software bug, or who made the decision that caused the project to lose money. Having an "oops" moment that makes the news would really suck.
(OT) I used to design control systems for commercial airliners. Never had anything I did go at all seriously bad, but the thought was always there. I did wind up having to fix some problems that had had serious consequences.
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Old 14th September 2018, 03:14 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
(OT) I used to design control systems for commercial airliners. Never had anything I did go at all seriously bad, but the thought was always there. I did wind up having to fix some problems that had had serious consequences.
A friend of mine was the safety engineer at a company manufacturing gasses. He said that the workers used to complain all the time about how stringent he was about safety, but whenever management asked him about the grumbling he'd shut them down with one word: Bhopal.
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Old 14th September 2018, 09:58 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
I think you are generally correct in the first paragraph, but suspect that in this case there may have been installations in the 39 homes that were good enough for normal service but not up to snuff for the overpressure in this instance. Even perhaps some DIY work, who knows? My suspicion is that the failures may have occurred at connections to things like furnaces and water heaters that had pilot lights.
Yeah, or if the houses were all built around the same time and there's a run of fittings from then that were deficient. I will want to hear about the root cause and (for sure) chain of unlikely events that led to this.
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Old 14th September 2018, 09:59 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
A friend of mine was the safety engineer at a company manufacturing gasses. He said that the workers used to complain all the time about how stringent he was about safety, but whenever management asked him about the grumbling he'd shut them down with one word: Bhopal.
When I worked at the Red Cross, we were doing all the labeling of blood products (and the quarantine of those tested and found to be unsuitable/unsafe) manually because the old computer system had been found to be terrible and it took almost two years to design a system with the right safety/verification features built in. For all the complaining that it took four people to label, check, and recheck every blood product (including three people spending hours in a refrigerator), we knew that a wrong move could kill somebody...and we didn't.

There are times you have to be careful, and there are times you have to be careful and then have at least a couple more people check and recheck that you were careful enough.
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Old 15th September 2018, 09:18 AM   #29
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Saw a thermal camera image on the fake news this morning of a leak occurring under a street. The whole event is really scary.

My wife, and her whole family, always believed that if you have gas to your house it is inevitably going to kill you, either by suffocation or incineration. Very fortunate to have had only one fatality in this incident, but it's still an unusual event.
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Old 15th September 2018, 10:05 AM   #30
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Gas explosion in the sewers? It would push gas up the line, past the J-traps in sinks and toilets, filling the houses with gas- until it hits a pilot light.

Side note- When I was little, my Dad was a doing some plumbing work. He told me the part he was putting in under the sink was a P-trap. I didn't believe him- How is a dip in a pipe going to stop Pee?

Now they call them J-traps, they are there to prevent the usual sewer gasses form entering your house. Stinky, and explosive.
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Old 15th September 2018, 08:27 PM   #31
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I live in North Andover. It was very surreal. I've never seen so many fire engines, police cars and ambulances in my life. I had to evacuate the area for about 24 hours, but I'm back in my apartment and things are slowly getting back to normal. For me it amounted to about 24 hours worth of inconvenience, but others weren't so lucky, especially that poor kid who was killed.

The police, firefighters and assorted emergency personnel all did an amazing job as far as I can see and though I hesitate to use the word in this forum, it's a miracle there weren't more injuries & fatalities.

Needless to say I'll be very interested to learn exactly what went wrong.
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Old 15th September 2018, 08:41 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
Gas explosion in the sewers? It would push gas up the line, past the J-traps in sinks and toilets, filling the houses with gas- until it hits a pilot light.

Side note- When I was little, my Dad was a doing some plumbing work. He told me the part he was putting in under the sink was a P-trap. I didn't believe him- How is a dip in a pipe going to stop Pee?

Now they call them J-traps, they are there to prevent the usual sewer gasses form entering your house. Stinky, and explosive.
Residences usually have at least one 4" vent stack in the sanitary line to vent the sewer gasses up through the roof. Hard to imagine how high the natural gas pressure in that instance would have to be for that not to be sufficient to keep it from forcing its way through the j-traps.
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Old 16th September 2018, 06:09 AM   #33
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I haven’t heard anything.... Anyone suggested hacking of the system by hostile parties?
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Old 16th September 2018, 06:22 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Distracted1 View Post
Residences usually have at least one 4" vent stack in the sanitary line to vent the sewer gasses up through the roof. Hard to imagine how high the natural gas pressure in that instance would have to be for that not to be sufficient to keep it from forcing its way through the j-traps.
A big blast via the sewer is more plausible than a direct high pressure blast through the appliances. From that high pressure line (700psi?) to an appliance (1/2 psi) the gas has to go through about 4 regulators. Then the jets in the appliances act as restrictions. Even the smallest gas pipe is good for thousands pf psi. And besides, they have stated "gas in the sewer".

I remember seeing a pic of a gasoline explosion in a sewer line in Mexico. Instantly turned the sewer system of the neighborhood into open trenches. I wonder what is the condition of Andover's sewers? Maybe they were buried deeper than the Mexico line.

eta: And you are right about the 4" stack/vent- to a random degree. That is why the affected houses are scattered around. Most houses, vent worked like you say.... But the veting is made for low pressure sewer gasses, NOT an explosion. Bombs canmake so much pressure the air gets compressed to a liquid. Umm, 2,000 psi?
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Old 16th September 2018, 08:37 AM   #35
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These kind of things are usually caused by a series of unfortunate events.

Every gas meter that I have ever seen also has a regulator built in to it. The regulator is basically a big rubber disc that has a spring attached to it that can be adjusted by a screw to increase and decrease the pressure to the user's equipment. Residential distribution line pressure is not constant, but usually runs around 25-40 psi. Household appliances generally use less than 10 psi, so the regulator is set there and the users seldom experience noticeable fluctuations.

Residential and commercial distribution lines have bigger regulators that reduce the pressure they get from the company that provides the service. These regulators are usually installed in parallel so that they can be serviced without interruption to the customers and will have isolation and bypass valves to reroute the gas from the regulator that's being serviced to one that's in service.

The company that provides the service also has even bigger parallel regulators that reduce the pressure they get from the gas industry lines, which can be into hundreds of psi.

If the regulator bypass valves and isolation valves are not opened and closed in the proper sequence then higher pressure gas will be applied to lower pressure systems, and the downstream equipment will be over pressurized. The local gas company will have pressure relief valves that open into tall chimneys where the gas can be safely burned, and some commercial users will have the same type of safety equipment.

Residential meters don't have such protective equipment. There's nothing but a little vent that faces down to the ground on the bottom of the regulator housing. If the rubber disc ruptures or if the meter even has a pressure relief valve, the gas is vented out of the regulator housing, right there by your flammable home.

My guess is that the local gas company's valves were not set properly or weren't piped properly during the service upgrade and something got turned on that wasn't really ready to be turned on.
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Old 16th September 2018, 10:57 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by HighRiser View Post
These kind of things are usually caused by a series of unfortunate events.

Every gas meter that I have ever seen also has a regulator built in to it. The regulator is basically a big rubber disc that has a spring attached to it that can be adjusted by a screw to increase and decrease the pressure to the user's equipment. Residential distribution line pressure is not constant, but usually runs around 25-40 psi. Household appliances generally use less than 10 psi, so the regulator is set there and the users seldom experience noticeable fluctuations.

Residential and commercial distribution lines have bigger regulators that reduce the pressure they get from the company that provides the service. These regulators are usually installed in parallel so that they can be serviced without interruption to the customers and will have isolation and bypass valves to reroute the gas from the regulator that's being serviced to one that's in service.

The company that provides the service also has even bigger parallel regulators that reduce the pressure they get from the gas industry lines, which can be into hundreds of psi.

It truly is a marvel of the world that I can turn a knob and get running water, and a different knob to get flame, and the whole electricity thing is pretty amazing, too. It's really something to know that there's a whole bunch of invisible underground gnomes running around to make all of this work.


Unfortunately, once in a while something like this Andover issue comes up, and you realize that it's not magic, and that things can actually go wrong.
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Old 16th September 2018, 12:55 PM   #37
HighRiser
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
It truly is a marvel of the world that I can turn a knob and get running water, and a different knob to get flame, and the whole electricity thing is pretty amazing, too. It's really something to know that there's a whole bunch of invisible underground gnomes running around to make all of this work.


Unfortunately, once in a while something like this Andover issue comes up, and you realize that it's not magic, and that things can actually go wrong.
I agree with all of this.

What I find truly unfortunate, though, is that the condition of so much of the infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate well past the point of anything like sensibility.

Water, sewer, power, telephone, and gas companies were privatized decades ago under the auspices of saving customers money in the free market system. Well, that doesn't seem to be working out very well because private companies are much more concerned with their stock values than with keeping their infrastructure from rotting away.
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Old Today, 12:16 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post


Unfortunately, once in a while something like this Andover issue comes up, and you realize that it's not magic, and that things can actually go wrong.
Once and awhile?

When has this ever occurred before?
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Old Today, 03:44 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by applecorped View Post
Once and awhile?

When has this ever occurred before?
I just mean a large scale infrastructure failure, not this specific sort of gas lines and explosions. I was marveling at the magic that makes utilities just work, effortlessly from the point of view of the user, and then something goes wrong, and 15 million people lose power around Lake Erie, of thousands of basements, including mine, flood in Southeast Michigan when the pumps fail, or any of a number of other freak incidents that remind us that it's not really magic, and sometimes it goes wrong.
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