York, Pa. – Tammy Reachard had a surprising way to describe how her cousin’s family was doing Tuesday.
“Wonderful,” Reachard said, despite the fact the family lost their home in a massive explosion Saturday night that leveled part of their row-home complex on West College Avenue in York.
They escaped with their lives. In the end, that’s all that matters, Reachard said.
The former home of Steve and Tracy Parks, at 955 W. College Ave., was the center of activity late Monday, said Leslie Orbin, spokeswoman for Columbia Gas.
Investigators found the gas meter for the home, but they could not find anything on the meter that provided answers, Orbin said.
The cause of the explosion remained unknown Tuesday, but clean-up crews were forming plans to remove debris from 955 and 957 W. College Ave. after insurance agents came to document the damage.
The area of those two homes is the suspected epicenter of the blast.
PUC to investigate
Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, said an investigator from the state agency had joined the probe.
The commission investigates any explosion that causes death, injury or more than $50,000 in damages. An explosion, regardless of size or injury, that is caused by gas warrants a commission investigation, Kocher said.
Not counting the West College Avenue blast, the PUC has investigated three natural-gas explosions in Pennsylvania this year.
An average number of explosions per year is between 10 and 12, Kocher said. Most are caused by digging in the area of natural-gas lines.
Damage up to five years old from excavation equipment has caused explosions, Kocher said.
Other possible causes include car crashes, flooding and other natural disasters. In 2004, there were 28 reported natural-gas explosions in Pennsylvania, mostly linked to severe flooding.
Tampering with equipment has also become a cause of explosions, whether it is someone trying to steal natural-gas service or trying to steal the copper piping used to transport natural gas.
Corrosion of equipment is also on the list.
“There are a number of things that could have caused this,” Orbin said.
She said she was not sure how long the investigation would take.
Extended family of Steve and Tracy Parks have set up a relief fund to help them.
The Parks, including their 3-month-old son, escaped serious injury, along with the others who lived and worked in 953 through 961 W. College Ave.
The row homes and Mike’s Nut Shop exploded in a ball of fire that quickly put itself out, witnesses described.
The blast was big enough to level two homes, partially collapse a third and cause crews to tear down two others Sunday and Monday.
Family and neighbors said the blast was also enough to throw the Parks’ son across a room. But he was not badly hurt.
“This is a miracle,” said Reachard, who said she thanks divine intervention for their lives.
Mary Rousher, Reachard and Steve Parks’ grandmother, died last month. She must have been the family’s guardian angel, Reachard said.
The members of the Parks family were staying in a hotel Tuesday but expected to begin
living with family members today.
Reachard said there is a lot of extended family in the area to take them in.
“All you can do is pull together as a family,” Reachard said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Here are the numbers of natural-gas explosions in Pennsylvania:
*The number does not include the explosion on West College Avenue in York. The investigation into the cause of the explosion and whether natural gas was involved remains open.
**Most of the explosions were linked to severe flooding that pounded the Northeast in 2004.
Source: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
WHAT IF YOU SMELL GAS?
Leslie Orbin, spokeswoman for Columbia Gas, said the company’s call center has seen a 50 percent increase in reported odors of natural gas in the York area since Saturday night’s explosion.
That is not uncommon after an explosion like Saturday’s, which destroyed the end of a row-home complex on West College Avenue.
If you believe you smell natural gas, follow these protocols by Columbia Gas:
· Don’t turn on lights or fans or use a telephone.
· No matter where you smell gas and whether it’s a faint smell or a distinct odor, leave immediately and go to a safe place.
· Call Columbia Gas immediately at 1-888-460-4332. A representative will come inspect the area.
· Don’t return to the area until a Columbia Gas representative says it’s safe.