Meridian, MS – No birds could be heard singing.
Smoke lifted into the sky from charred trees and homes. A little childs wagon emptied on its back, blackened by fire, wheels melted.
This was the surreal scene Friday afternoon of a once family oriented neighborhood at the end of County Road 621 in the Carmichael community of southeastern Clarke County. The rubble of homes, the shells of vehicles and scorched toys strewn about the yard was all that was left after a propane gas line erupted at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday in which two people were killed, five were injured and several left homeless. Officials are now trying to find the cause of gas leak and subsequent explosions.
It looks like a napalm strike, doesnt it? asked Clarke County Sheriff Todd Kemp as he stood in front of 150 acres of burnt earth. Ive never seen anything quite like this.
The 46-year old underground propane gas line, 12-inches in diameter, now has a 60 foot gash along its length. By Friday afternoon, the flame was only a few feet tall as the remaining gas continued to burn off. Thursday officials said the flames were upwards of 100 feet in height billowing black smoke that could be seen for miles.
Our deepest thoughts and sympathies go out to the individuals and families who have been affected by this tragedy, said Jim Collinsworth, president of Dixie Pipeline Company. I want to assure the community we are committed to determining the cause.
Thursday night, working alongside the American Red Cross, Dixie Pipeline representatives provided lodging, food and other necessities
For those unable to remain in their homes. The shelters will continue to assist residents as long as they are displaced.
A 1-mile area around the site was evacuated Thursday morning displacing 60 families; most residents had returned to their homes by Friday. Only those in the immediate area of the blast, such as Carolyn Pacely, have yet been allowed to the scene.
I dont have a home left, said Pacely as she sat in a folding chair under a pine tree close to the Carmichael Community Center. They havent told us when we can go back in.
Pacely is right. There is nothing of value left in the area. She knows that because she was there when the explosions occurred.
I was in my mother-in-laws house, Pacely said. She died as did her granddaughter.
Maddie Mitchell, 63, was in her home along with Pacely when the first explosion shook the neighborhood. Pacely ran outside for a minute to check on relatives and when she returned to the home, the second explosion occurred.
The second explosion was the one that set everything on fire, said Pacely. I tried to get momma out of the house but she calmly told me, Go ahead baby, Im already dead.
Naquandra Mitchell, Maddie Mitchells 20-year old granddaughter, was standing in front of her mobile home when the second explosion ripped through the hamlet. She was killed.
Pacely is now waiting to see what happens next. Kemp said Friday afternoon nitrogen will be pumped into the gas lines after the fire finally goes out to move out any pockets of propane. He said by morning those residents in the affected area may be allowed back in to try and salvage what they can.
Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board have now taken over control of the site.
Dixie Pipeline Company, headquartered in Houston, Texas, operates and maintains about 1,300 miles of pipeline that transports propane to seven states throughout the Gulf Coast and southeastern United States.