Residents of a neighborhood about 10 miles northwest of central Houston, Texas, were blasted out of bed early Friday morning by such a massive explosion that nearby homes were ripped right off their foundations. Officials believe a leak of propylene gas at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing is the cause. Police confirm two deaths and multiple injuries.
One woman was trapped in her house until help arrived to rescue the family. “The whole house is ruined,” Kim told local news, without giving her last name. “The whole ceiling crashed down on all of us. We were all trapped in there.” It’s times like this when you appreciate your neighbors. “A nice family came and helped us out.”
At least two people were treated for cuts after their windows were hurled into dangerous shrapnel. “It busted out every window in our house. It busted everybody’s garage door in around here. It’s a war zone,” neighbor Mark Brady says.
Residents nearly 20 miles away say that they felt the concussion and local meteorologist Mike Iscovitz confirms the blast was so intense that it showed up on the radar screen. “Radar clearly shows this brief FLASH of reflectivity from NW Houston,” he tweeted.
Around 4:25 a.m., a home security camera filmed “a blinding flash in the distance followed by a fireball,” Reuters reports. “Smoke and flames could be seen billowing from the area around the blast and emergency vehicles converged on the area.”
Firefighters inspected around 200 homes and discovered “some of them are off the foundation.” Especially the homes closest to the explosion site near Genard and Gessner Roads, police Chief Art Acevedo explains.
Bruce Meikle owns nearby ChemSystems and lives conveniently about a mile away. “I thought it was thunder,” he told the press as he showed them how “the force of the blast bent back the metal loading doors at his business and caused minor damage inside.” A chemist working with Meikle, Paul Crea, asserts that the blast woke him up too, and he lives a good 10 miles away. It really bothered his dogs, they “bellowed at the sound.”
Even though preliminary investigation points to a leak as the culprit, and there are no indications of foul play, officials will be opening an arson investigation expected to last several weeks. “When you have this kind of a type of incident,” Acevedo relates, “part of our protocol is to always conduct a criminal investigation.” Houston’s fire chief agrees. “This is still an active scene,” Chief Samuel Peña wrote on social media. “We will advise of the possible cause of the explosion as soon as we have concrete info.”