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How hot was it? Governor Earl Ray Tomblin could feel how intense it was--literally--hours after the blast.
(Tomblin) said the 800-foot section of Interstate 77 damaged in the blast appeared "baked" and the explosion "blew a huge hole open" in a tract of land near the interstate.
"We were very fortunate that at the time of the explosion there were no vehicles in proximity to the site," Tomblin said.
The governor walked on the charred road. He said the asphalt still was sizzling and he could feel the heat through the soles of his shoes.
"It was like walking on a volcano," he said.
Kanawha County commission president Kent Carper said that there were still hotspots being detected half an hour after the gas lines were shut off.
Four homes were destroyed, though nobody was home. In other words--just an hour or two later, and this could have been a real disaster.
The blast scorched an 800-foot stretch of I-77 in Sissonville, 10 miles north of Charleston. I-77 was shut down for most of the night in both directions, though it was reopened early this morning. Originally, state officials thought it would take a full day to repair the road.
The explosion was caused by the failure of a Columbia Gas Transmission line, prompting Jay Rockefeller to call for an investigation. The NTSB and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are already on the case.
As I said earlier, we're really fortunate that no one was killed. Imagine what could have happened had this been during rush hour, or while several nearby schools were letting out.