Remembering the Sissonville pipeline explosion

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. — One year later the images are still fresh in everyone’s minds of a natural gas pipeline rupturing in Sissonville.

“It was an incredible scene,” said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper. “The fire melted the interstate and it looked like lava, just boiling.”

Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of the event that had a 20-inch natural gas line rupturing on Archibald Hill, shooting flames 80 to 90 feet into the air and sending debris flying.

The explosion and the fires that followed destroyed four residences, damaged five others and crumbled a football field long section of Interstate 77 near Sissonville.

Immediately following the explosion Kanawha County emergency crews reacted and evacuated residents in the area within 1,000 feet of the explosion site. Carper said the emergency response was the difference.

“The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department, West Virginia State Police, the volunteer fire service, everyone did a perfect job in working together to reduce further harm to the community,” he said.

Once the smoke settled that Tuesday afternoon, only five residents were transported to the hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

“It was a true Christmas miracle a year ago that we didn’t have a number of fatalities,” Carper said.

Due to the explosion, Interstate 77 had to be shut down, but only for a couple days as road crews worked around the clock to fix the road surface in record timing.

“What they did to allow the interstate to reopen again really saved millions of dollars in commerce in this area because of the time of year, plus it also prevented other accidents,” Carper explains.

One year later, a new stretch of pipeline replaces the ruptured pipe and pipeline safety is front and center.

“There’s a new national awareness and certainly an awareness in the state about natural gas pipelines being a very important thing to keep an eye on and have them inspected regularly,” said Carper.

Since the explosion, the West Virginia Public Service Commission has released several pages of violations by Columbia Gas. 

The National Transportation Safety Board has been conducting an investigation into the explosion. A preliminary report was released in July, but a final conclusion is pending.

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