Natural gas leak suspected in explosion that totaled Columbia, Md. commercial building – The Washington Post

Natural gas leak suspected in explosion that totaled Columbia, Md. commercial building - The Washington Post

Maryland gas explosion rips through building, felt over a mile away, residents say

A gas explosion in Columbia, Md., destroyed at least one building and sent shock waves rippling through homes over a mile away early Sunday.

Howard County emergency officials said they responded to reports of a gas leak in the city's business district around 7:30 a.m. — about 30 minutes before the explosion.

“As they responded to multiple reports of hissing sounds coming from a large crack in the parking lot of the building, they promptly assessed the situation, worked to ensure the buildings were not occupied and that evacuations were not necessary, and set up a perimeter,” Ball said.

No businesses were open yet and officials were able to evacuate all bystanders beyond a safety perimeter 1,000 feet away, Howard County Fire Battalion Chief Stephen Hardesti said during a press conference. No injuries were reported in the blast, officials said.

“BGE crews have turned off gas service and are currently working closely with the fire department,” the utility company said on Twitter. “Once it is safe to do so, BGE will investigate the cause of the incident.”

“If it had been a normal workday, the evacuation or clearing of the area would have been a little bit harder, and we would have definitely had a different circumstance,” Hardesti said.

The blast was so powerful it could be heard “in communities many miles away,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. Ball thanked firefighters on the scene for how they handled the situation.

The gas leaked out from a "crater" about 10 feet long and several inches wide in the parking lot and migrated into the building, Hardesti said. Electricity and gas were shut off in a widespread area following the blast.

The explosion seemed to occur at a building that houses a Social Security office and a dental practice, according to NBC Washington. The businesses are located in the middle of a popular shopping area.

Hardesti said the building appeared "totaled" and was in danger of collapsing. Crews were working to secure the building.

The U.S. Social Security Administration is located in the Lakeside Office building, which also houses other businesses. It wasn't clear which businesses were in the part of the building that exploded.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Company said in a statement that a crew member was on site working with the fire department the blast occurred.

Residents reported feeling a rumbling and hearing a loud boom that shook their homes just before 8 a.m. Many said the trembling felt like an earthquake.

The blast also triggered a power outage in the area, with several nearby businesses losing electricity.

“My neighbors, wife, and I all felt a rumble a few (around 10-15) minutes ago," a resident wrote on Twitter. "All our houses visibly and audibly shook.”

A gas explosion at a shopping center in Columbia, Maryland, caused the front of an office building to collapse on Sunday morning and shook homes and businesses many miles away.

Howard County Fire and Rescue reported the explosion just before 8 a.m. in the 8800 block of Stanford Boulevard at the Lakeside Office Building and shopping center.

They received a call around 7:30 a.m. with reports of a gas leak, according to Howard County Fire and Rescue. When they arrived on the scene, fire officials say that a crater in the road was emitting gas and transferring it into the building.

At a press conference on Sunday morning, Howard County Fire and Rescue Services Battalion Chief Stephen Hardesty said that the building is at risk of collapsing further.

He said that the building “is probably totaled” due to structural damage but could not comment further on the status of the building until further investigation.

Fire officials stated that they are working with the building manager to make sure that all of the businesses are notified.

Some surrounding area businesses and buildings suffered broken glass and tree damage from the office building exploding, Hardesty said.

Those living in the area of the Lakeside Shopping Center who smell gas are urged to call 911, Hardesty said.

Stanford Boulevard is closed at McGaw Road as Howard County Fire and Rescue crews as well as BG&E work at the scene.

A widespread power outage in the Stanford Boulevard and McGaw Road area was affecting area businesses, according to Howard County Fire and Rescue.

“It was so powerful it could be heard in communities many miles away,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball in a Facebook post on Sunday morning.

He said that crews responded to multiple reports of “hissing sounds” coming from a large crack in the parking lot of the building and quickly worked to ensure that the buildings were not occupied and that evacuations were not necessary and set up a perimeter.

“We will do everything possible to minimize the impact of this explosion those who are affected by it,” Ball said. 

Gov. Larry Hogan thanked first responders for being on the scene within minutes. The governor said the Maryland Joint Operations Center and the State Fire Marshal have offered their full support and assistance.

“This massive explosion was felt in many of the surrounding communities, a shock to families across the area,” Hogan said in a tweet. “Thankfully, no injuries have been reported so far.”

Those who live and work in the area felt the explosion on Sunday morning as they were going about their daily routines.

“We live less than a mile away as the crow flies,” Kristin Wright who lives in Columbia off of Oakland Mills Road told WTOP in a text message. “It was loud! The whole house shook!”

Gary Inen, who works at Pub Dog Pizza and Drafthouse, located at the other end of the same shopping center, said that he was headed into work on Sunday when his phone started flooding with messages about the explosion.

“Everyone just starting messaging me because they knew that I was working today,” Inen said.

The alarm company also alerted them to the explosion. The restaurant was supposed to hold an anniversary party on Sunday.

“I was worried for a while because thats our primary source of income for a lot of us and if that was gone then I didnt know what we were going to do but its better that were only going to suffer for a few days,” Inen said.

Nayna Dave, who owns Apsara Day Spa in the strip mall next to Riverside Coffee, went to the scene of the gas explosion on Sunday morning after getting a call from one of her customers who was driving by the building who informed her that her building was on fire.

“I spent so much money to bring it up. Its like two and a half years, plus you know you need to put a lot of time and energy and everything into your businesses,” said Dave, who runs three other locations of Apsara Day Spa.

She said that while her salon was destroyed in the explosion, she’s grateful that no one was injured.

In addition to Pub Dog and Aspara Day Spa, the shopping center is home to Social Security Administration offices, Krav Maga Maryland, an Indian grocery store, a dry cleaner’s and Riverside Coffee, among other businesses.

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