Adair County, Kentucky remains under a state of emergency after a natural gas line explosion early Thursday morning. Nearby residents told local news that they had just fallen asleep when the blast rocked them awake around 1 a.m.
“I had just got done watching the Olympics and was getting into bed when the whole house shook and it sounded like a big bomb went off. It lit up the sky like it was daylight, it was a great ball of fire,” Bill Kingdollar, who lives 25 miles from the explosion told WLKY.
“I could feel the heat outside my home and debris was falling, rocks and dirt. I was in the Army 20 years and I’ve never experienced an explosion like that,” he added.
The blast in the small rural town of Knifely, about 90 miles south of Louisville, ignited multiple fires. Three homes were set ablaze, two of which were completely destroyed. Two barns and four cars were also incinerated. So far, only one person has been reported injured, although the extent of the injuries are not yet known. Twenty additional homes were also evacuated.
The 30-inch natural gas pipeline was about 100 feet from Highway 76 and buried 30 feet underground. When it exploded, large rocks and sections of pipeline flew into the air. A 60-foot crater was left behind. The pipeline is owned by Columbia Gulf, part of NiSource’s Columbia Pipeline Group, which owns and operates more than 15,700 miles of natural gas pipelines, one of the largest underground storage systems in North America.
According to the company website, approximately 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas flows through the Columbia Pipeline systems each year.
The pipeline that exploded was carrying natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico to New York.
Fire departments from several surrounding counties are on the scene and report that the fire is under control and is being left to burn itself out.
Katherine Dupuis, a spokeswoman for NiSource, told Reuters that the company was investigating the incident and would provide more details later. She could not say if the pipeline was still operating.