Explosion in Bellingham, Wash

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AP is reporting an explosion near City Water Treatment Plant, in Bellingam, Washinton sending black smoke to 30,000 feet. Gasoline pipeline leak blammed.

-- (snowleopard6@webtv.net), June 11, 1999


AP Breaking News: [ URL goes dead after a couple hours ]

[ For Educational Purposes Only ]

6/10/99 -- 9:55 PM

Huge plumes of black smoke billow over town after gasoline

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) - A gasoline pipeline leak ignited a fireball that barreled down a creek for a half-mile Thursday, burning two youngsters.

The explosion near the city's water treatment plant on Whatcom Creek sent a cloud of black smoke about 30,000 feet into the sky over this northwest Washington city, witnesses said.

``It looked like Mount St. Helens!'' said Michele Higgins, public information officer for Whatcom County Emergency Services.

A hospital said it was told at least two juveniles were in need of treatment for severe burns.

Police did not know what sparked the fire, which burned out within an hour. Firefighters continued to battle smaller fires ignited by the blaze.

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

Hhhmmm, not good:


[ For Educational Purposes Only ]

The huge Bellingham fire has now taken two lives.
One body was found after the explosion yesterday along Whatcom Creek.
This morning a ten-year-old boy died of his burns at a Seattle hospital. Another ten-year-old boy remains in critical condition with burns at Harborview Medical Center.

Officials in Bellingham are investigating exactly what happened.
The Olympic pipeline had been shut down for a computer problem and was starting back up when the line apparently ruptured.

Nearly 300-thousand gallons of gasoline spilled into the creek and spread a mile through the city. Something -- maybe fireworks -- set the gas on fire in a blast that sent a huge black cloud over Bellingham.
Some witnesses said it looked like the eruption of Mount Saint Helens.

Officials said this morning the explosion has damaged the water supply and residents on the east side of Bellingham are asked to conserve.

Computer problems ... deaths ... explosions ... infrastructure damage ... one thing affects another ... cascading catastrophes ... signs of the times ...

Hey, EC, you reading this? Remember that info we got about the dangers of the gas lines from the Y2K Council?

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

This was an earlier story:

Friday June 11 1:41 AM ET

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A series of explosions fueled by a ruptured gasoline pipeline rocked Bellingham, Washington, Thursday, sending a wall of flames racing along a creek and critically injuring two 10-year-old boys, authorities said.

The explosions sent a plume of thick black smoke billowing up to 10,000 feet and darkened the evening sky in the city about 90 miles north of Seattle.

``People close to it said it felt like an earthquake,'' said Michele Higgins of the Whatcom County Emergency Services Department. She said the cause was not known.

Fires burned for hours after the 5 p.m. explosions, damaging a house and part of a water treatment plant and destroying dozens of trees along the creek.

The boys, who had been playing near the creek in a city park at the time, were airlifted to Harborview Hospital in Seattle, where they were in critical condition with burns over 90 percent of their body, hospital spokesman Larry Zalin said.

Another four people were treated at a local hospital for smoke inhalation.

Several blocks of homes and businesses near the fires were evacuated, and there were some reported power outages.

The underground pipeline, operated by Olympic Pipeline Co., carries gasoline and other fuel from refineries to the Seattle and Portland, Oregon, areas, said a spokeswoman for Olympic Pipeline.

``It's basically the major fuel link for the state of Washington,'' she said.
Oh, swell ...

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

Isn't gas fun?

AP Breaking News: [ For Educational Purposes Only ]

6/11/99 -- 12:05 PM

Two people thrown from house during explosion

PLYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) - A suspected gas explosion blew a house off its foundation early today, throwing its occupants into their back yard with only minor injuries.

Neighbors who reported the blast, which also damaged nearby homes, found a man and woman bloodied and wandering in a daze.

``They were in a second-floor bedroom and the house lifted, blew apart, and in the course they were thrown out,'' said Deputy Fire Chief James Pierson. ``I'm not sure even they know what happened.''

Police identified the occupants as Cindy Vacchino, 48, and Gregory Marconi, 49, of Pembroke. They were treated for cuts and bruises at Jordan Hospital.

Fire officials said a leaky supply line from a propane tank was the likely cause of the 1:30 a.m. explosion which made the front of the house collapse. Foul play was not suspected, Pierson said.

Dishes lay intact among the debris, 60 feet away from the explosion, while household goods, including a table and lamp, littered the lawn.

Neighbor Jim Forand likened the blast to an exploding aerosol can ``times 100.'' When Forand got outside, he saw what remained of the Cape-style house and told his wife to call the fire department.

``I saw no walls, no roof, nothing. All I see is a fireball in the middle,'' Forand recalled later in a phone interview.

``I told my wife to tell them not to bother looking for survivors because there aren't any.''

But then he was amazed to find the dazed survivors.
``I can't figure it out,'' Forand said. ``I saw it with my own eyes, and I can't understand it.''
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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

Wow, more systemic proof!

-- Garee (North@By.North.West), June 11, 1999.

[ For Educational Purposes Only ]

Posted at 07:23 a.m. PDT; Friday, June 11, 1999
2 die when fireball erupts from leaking Bellingham pipeline

by Keiko Morrisand Janet Burkitt, Seattle Times staff reporters

The acrid odor of gasoline was everywhere, and police rushed to barricade streets along Whatcom Creek. But it was too late. In a matter of minutes, explosions shook the ground killing two people, and the lush green swath of trees behind John Geier's house were devoured in a solid, rolling wall of orange.

"It looked like it was coming straight toward us, and then it turned," Geier said. "Everything lit up with flames. . . . I could feel the heat. You could hear the leaves crackling."

The explosion and flames left two dead, critically injured a 10-year-old boy and sent a giant plume of smoke thousands of feet into the air.

The mammoth fireball fueled by an estimated 277,000 gallons of gasoline from a ruptured pipeline raced down Whatcom Creek east of downtown Bellingham yesterday, sending Geier and his neighbors running for their lives.

This morning, authorities in Bellingham were searching for what ignited the gasoline. Police Chief Don Pierce said they are looking at the possibility that fireworks could have ignited the blaze. But other possibilities aren't being ruled out.

Pierce said police have interviewed children playing near the creek when the blast occurred. The scorched and charred creek corridor remained sealed off today, and various hot spots within the burned area were still being dealt with this this morning.

Authorities also continued to search for victims of the blast and fire.

Olympic Pipeline Vice President and Manager Frank Hoff said at a news conference early this morning in Bellingham that because of the heat, pipeline workers haven't been able to get close enough to inspect the pipe and look for a cause of the leak.

"It looked like the explosion of Mount St. Helens. There was this extremely ugly black plume with a white cap on top," said Orman Darby, a spokesman for the Whatcom County Department of Emergency Management.

"It probably went 30,000 feet in the air."

Flames enveloped one home and another structure as the rapidly traveling inferno gradually ran out of fuel about a half-mile from the source of the leaking gasoline. The fire had mostly burned itself out after about an hour, but firefighters battled hot spots well into the night.

Investigators today were going to focus on how the gasoline leaked from the pipe - owned by Renton-based Olympic Pipe Line - near the confluence of Whatcom Lake and Whatcom Creek.

"It must have been some sort of blowout or puncture," said Joann Hamick, Olympic spokeswoman. She said the most common cause of pipeline leaks is "third-party damage," such as accidental punctures by construction crews. She said there were reports of construction work in the area, but they were unconfirmed.

Given the amount of gasoline that had spilled into the swift-moving creek it wouldn't take much to spark the blast, Darby said. A car ignition, a flicked cigarette butt.

The body of one person who was killed was found late last night during a search of the charred creek. The victim's identity, gender and other details were not immediately known.

The 10-year-old whose injuries were fatal was identified as Wade King. He died shortly after 2:15 a.m. today at Harborview Medical Center.

King and his companion, Stephen Tsiorvas, both suffered third-degree burns over 90 percent of their bodies. Tsiorvas was in critical condition this morning at Harborview.

The two boys apparently jumped into the water to stop the burning, Stephen Tsiorvas' 15-year-old brother, Andrew, told The Bellingham Herald.

He and friends spotted the two boys just after the explosion. His friend, Tyrone Francisco, 16, first found Wade and brought him back to the house. He then found Stephen who he said was still too hot to touch.

The boys were so badly burned, Andrew Tsiorvas said, that he didn't know whether he should allow them to see each other.

"Wade didn't want his mother to know," Andrew Tsiorvas said. "He said she'd be too sad and mad at him."

Two people were treated for minor smoke inhalation at St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham.

The accident comes just as Olympic Pipe Line is seeking approval of a controversial 230-mile pipeline from near Bothell to Pasco. The plans have been met with staunch opposition from environmentalists and others who fear the potential for just such an accident.

Whether yesterday's explosion and fire will affect plans for the pipeline is "unclear right now," Hamick said.

The company's underground 16-inch steel pipe from a Ferndale refinery, coupled with a pipe starting at a refinery in Anacortes, comprise the state's major fuel transporter - carrying gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel from the refineries to several terminals, ending in Portland.

Gasoline, the fuel that had leaked into Whatcom Creek, is the most flammable of the three, Hamick said.

Hamick said the spill may have occurred when the pipeline was shut down earlier in the day.

At 3:25 p.m., the computers at Olympic Pipe Line's headquarters in Renton that control and monitor the pipeline began receiving faulty information, Hamick said. Staff members in Renton shut the pipeline down while they conducted system checks. They tried to restart pipeline operations at 4:32 p.m. once the computer was working properly.

But pipeline operations never fully restarted. Some pumping began, but staff members saw readings showing a pressure problem, so they stopped operations immediately, she said.

At 4:35 p.m., a company field worker in Bellingham who happened to be near Whatcom Creek called in to report: " `I think we've got a problem - I smell gasoline,' " Hamick recounted.

The Bellingham Fire Department called the company 13 minutes later, reporting gasoline in the creek, she said. Area residents also reported gasoline in the creek, fire department officials said, and police began barricading streets around the creek.

But the Olympic field worker called headquarters again at 4:55 p.m.: The fuel was on fire and he was running from the scene, Hamick said.

From the picture window of her ground-floor Bellingham office 15 blocks from Whatcom Creek, insurance company employee Angela Lee Holstrom saw the first explosion.

"I went outside to look and, BOOM! the second (explosion) went off, then, BOOM!, the third one went off," she said. "There (were) big, huge billowing black clouds that went way the heck up in the air." Workers at her insurance office initially worried about their safety, she said, but the fire did not spread to the area.

Rosalie Wilburg, who lives near the creek, said she was driving down the street when she saw the thick clouds of smoke. Her husband, who was at home, grabbed the video camera and started filming. "He said that people were running down the street. They didn't know where to go," she said. "I'm still shaking."

"At first I thought it was the school that blew," said Mark Dickie, who lives near Whatcom Creek. "The instant I saw the balls of black smoke, I knew it was a gas explosion."

Don Anderson, whose home is perched above the creek, heard the blasts, saw the fire heading his way and decided he had better leave. Twenty minutes later, his house exploded. He returned later to salvage a singed wood chest of coins and some clothes.

The fire scorched both sides of the creek, burning trees and other vegetation. Bellingham Police Lt. Dac Jamison compared the damage to what he had seen in Vietnam.

"It looked just like that," Jamison said. "Like they laid down napalm."

Columns of black smoke could be seen from miles away, prompting the temporary closure of Interstate 5. The blaze scorched power lines, disrupting power to area residents and businesses such as Georgia Pacific's pulp mill.

Pumps at the city's water treatment plant went down, and the glass panels on the building's front facade shattered after gas vapors in the ground caused a smaller explosion several hundred feet away.

Steve Hunter, spill response supervisor for the state Department of Ecology, said the gas spill extended at least a quarter-mile down the creek. "Of course, the gas could have gone farther than the fire, and the gas is highly toxic to fish in the stream," Hunter said.

An agency biologist was on the scene checking damaged areas of the creek. "We're seeing a lot of dead fish already," said Dick Logan, Ecology resource damage assessment coordinator.

Olympic immediately sent emergency and clean-up crews, Hamick said. Many residents living near the creek were stunned but quickly figured that the explosion was related to the gasoline.

By 6:30 p.m., firefighters had the blaze under control, though several small spot fires still burned along the zigzagging creek and orange embers flaked off of blackened tree trunks. Water tainted with remnants of the gasoline glazed over creek rocks in a blue-green sheen.

"I've been here 30 years, and I've never seen anything like this before," said Gary Crawford, chief of Whatcom County's Fire District No. 8. "You can tell how hot it got. It singed the hills behind it. We had some 2,000-degree heat."

Coast Guard officials closed Bellingham Bay for a one-mile radius around the mouth of the creek. Officials at Western Washington University, several miles to the south, said tomorrow's commencement activities would take place as scheduled.

Despite the casualties, firefighters and police were relieved that the damage and casualties weren't even greater.

"We were very fortunate, because this is a very popular park," Jamison said.

"The water is still cold, and not many people are swimming in the creek yet." Seattle Times staff reporter Jim Brunner contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

Sorry to say the other little boy died this morning also so 3 deaths and someone is now reported missing. Pics were unbelievable - did indeed look like St. Helens. Said on the noon news that they hadn't been able to get in and look at the pipe-break site yet - too hot. Really sad and scary if this is what we have to look forward to on restarts of gas and natural gas pipelines.

-- Valkyrie (anon@please.net), June 11, 1999.

100s of gas regulators per city, noncompliant. They reduce pressure from 400 lbs to 2 lbs. Plan: work them manually, pull retirees out to sit in the snow at midnight ...

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

"At 3:25 p.m., the computers at Olympic Pipe Line's headquarters in Renton that control and monitor the pipeline began receiving faulty information, Hamick said. Staff members in Renton shut the pipeline down while they conducted system checks. They tried to restart pipeline operations at 4:32 p.m. once the computer was working properly.

But pipeline operations never fully restarted. Some pumping began, but staff members saw readings showing a pressure problem, so they stopped operations immediately, she said.

Too much pressure = rupture.

Maybe y'all remember that we posted a while back that Whatcom Lake was our idea of heaven on earth, the most beautiful spot on the planet, where we'd build a bug-out fortress and invite y'all if we won the lottery.

We are greatly saddened by this terrible incident and the loss of life and environmental destruction.

Y2K will be horrendous. Just think about all the information we've all gotten on this Forum, and what it means.

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.


Taking some pretty large leaps there, aren't we?

You bold part of the spokespersons comments but conveniently gloss over:

"It must have been some sort of blowout or puncture," said Joann Hamick, Olympic spokeswoman. She said the most common cause of pipeline leaks is "third-party damage," such as accidental punctures by construction crews. She said there were reports of construction work in the area, but they were unconfirmed.

Then, you draw your own conclusions as to the cause of the accident:

"Too much pressure = rupture"

Where does it say there was "too much pressure"? It says there was a pressure problem. Is it not possible that the "problem" was not enough pressure, i.e. the rupture had already occured and gas was leaking out, reducing pressure downstream? Since they shut it down immediately after the restarted it, how do you conclude that the restart caused the blowout. Simple math says it was leaking long before the restart was attempted:

277,000 gallons = 1.2 billion cubic inches of gasoline

In a 16 inch line, this is over 6 miles worth of gasoline. Even if a complete blowout occurred after the restart and 100% of the flow was leaking out before they shut it down again, how long do you think it takes for that much gasoline to leak out?

Why are people so quick to jump to conclusions when so little information is available and, the little that is available contradicts their conclusions? Why not wait until the investigators have had time to do their job before making outlandish claims?

Why try to scare people needlessly with statements like:

"100s of gas regulators per city, noncompliant. They reduce pressure from 400 lbs to 2 lbs. Plan: work them manually"

Are you refering to regulators on natural gas lines? What do they have to do with gasoline? What evidence do you have that all of these regulators are non-compliant and the only remediation plan is to run them in manual?

-- Do You See (howstupid@youlook.com), June 11, 1999.

Read further up: "The Olympic pipeline had been shut down for a computer problem and was starting back up when the line apparently ruptured."

Do your own reading/research on this thread and the news sources now reporting.

The contingency plans for going manual on the natural gas regulators we heard straight from the mouth of the man in charge of said subject, in front of a large audience.

If you look, you will notice our post on regulators was a separate post after Valkyrie brought up natural gas pipelines.

Those of you who are near gas lines -- please have Plans A, B + C for fire suppression ready. Your local fire department will likely help you.

We've noticed that whenever real, factual evidence is posted, trolls flock to debunk. Read more carefully and do your own research.

We have posted this exact information re gas lines several times on this Forum. These incidents are simply more factual real-life evidence of the problems associated with volatile substances which society uses on a daily basis, and which have become controlled to some degree by computerization.

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

But you didn't respond to any of my questions. A reporter says that the line 'apparently' ruptured when it was restarting but you completely ignore what the company spokeperson says is the likely cause? Of course because it doesn't fit your scenario. Worse yet, you quote parts of what she said to try to bolster your point.

What about the volume of gasoline, nearly 300,000 gallons? Explain that if the rupture happened when they restarted. You can't.

"The contingency plans for going manual on the natural gas regulators we heard straight from the mouth of the man in charge of said subject, in front of a large audience."

Who? When? Where? If he said so in front of a large audience, there should be no trouble in posting his name or at least who he works for, should there? Was he talking about all cities and all regulators or only his small piece of the universe because your paraphrasing indicated it was universal.

"We've noticed that whenever real, factual evidence is posted, trolls flock to debunk. Read more carefully and do your own research."

It is not the factual evidence I have a problem with, it is the conclusions you draw from said facts as well as the non-factual information like the gas regulators which you attempt to pawn off as fact.

So, if this was your idea of a response, try again!

-- Do You See (howstupid@youlook.com), June 11, 1999.

Try yourself again to read the above news articles. Nothing we can write illustrates the computer malfunction consequences as vividly and horrifically as the news reports copied above. Read the facts, concentrate on the facts. Try to learn from the facts. Try to learn to read. Try to see how you might prepare to protect yourself from terrible accidents detailed in the above facts.

There is only so much repeating that can be attempted before the wall of blockhead presents a barrier. If you do not believe the facts and do not want to do your own research, there is no way anybody else can help you. One can see Y2K problems roaring down the train wreck tracks if one looks carefully and thinks and learns from history.

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

I take it that this means you cannot reply to my questions. I didn't think you could but I'll give you one more chance.

"Nothing we can write illustrates the computer malfunction consequences as vividly and horrifically as the news reports copied above. Read the facts, concentrate on the facts. Try to learn from the facts."

What 'facts' are you referring to. Nowhere in anything does it say a computer failure caused a rupture and explosion. NOWHERE! Any statements to that effect are nothing more than speculation based on limited information.

"Try to learn to read. Try to see how you might prepare to protect yourself from terrible accidents detailed in the above facts."

I read fine, do you? Explain to me how exactly you would protect yourself from an unexpected explosion. Do you use natural gas or propane in your house? Have you protected yourself from all possibilities of explosions? How do you know?

"If you do not believe the facts and do not want to do your own research, there is no way anybody else can help you."

Like I said before, it is not the facts that are a problem, it is the wild speculations based loosely on those facts along with a large helping of personal agenda that I have a problem with.

Once again, where is your 'proof' that this was caused by a computer failure? What is your source for your statement about gas regulators? Those are 'facts' which you should easily be able to supply if you are not just full of hot air. I eagerly await your 'reply'.

-- Do You See (howstupid@youlook.com), June 11, 1999.

Ashton & Leska-----I think the Y2K train is still too for down the track for most to see. Some of us [both of you included] have got our ear to the track and can heard the rumbling. We know it is coming. Poor "DoYouSee" could be deaf and no matter how close that ear is to the tracks there is nothing for that poor ear to hear.

-- thinkIcan (thinkIcan@make.it), June 11, 1999.


This accident, while tragic, didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being related to y2k in any way. Apparently a computer problem *may* have been involved, but even that isn't clear. I can understand people like Ashton and Leska seeing every untoward event as having y2k somehow underlying it, since they view everything through y2k- colored glasses, which apparently are nearly opaque to anything else.

This gets really old. The number of industrial accidents is no higher now than every, but we get our faces shoved into every one, with a bunch of y2k mixed in whether there's an iota of justification for that or not. In ever case, subsequent investigation has found the actual cause, which is always mundane, and politely ignored by the y2k lunatics, who usually drop the subject without even the knee-jerk claim that the *real* y2k cause has been covered up.

Y2k presents plenty of real and serious problems all by itself. Why manufacture what isn't there?

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 11, 1999.

Thanks, Leska!

The possibility for HAZMAT accidents is always a clear and present danger. Never more than early next year.

It's just "prudent planning" to have contingencies, supplies and skills to deal with the unknown and unknowable possible accidents.

Do an area inventory of your community to see what the local challenges "could be" in the event of serious or not-so-serious problems.

'Tis just wise.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), June 11, 1999.

Flint ----- You make an excellent point and I agree with you one hndred percent that there are many every day events that we "Doomers" may interput as Y2K related. That's just the nature of the beast. I just want to get thru this thing and if there is no Y2K train on the track I'll be the most happy camper around. My antenna is always up, not looking for disaster, but not wanting to be caught off guard. There are many, many indications out there that tell me something is up. I still like the analogy of the Y2K train, maybe not in sight let but if you have your ear to the rail you can here something. Maybe 99% of the population isn't interested to bend down and put their ear to the rail. That would look funny, or they might get their knees dirty.

-- thinkIcan (thinkIcan@make.it), June 11, 1999.


Remember that train tracks can be a pretty good amplifier for many things (distant storms, for example), not just trains. When you put a conch shell to your ear, you even hear the ocean in Kansas.

I predict an abnormally high incidence of accidents like this within a day of rollover (hope I'm wrong). On the whole, the type of y2k problems that make things go BOOM have a very short time scale.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 11, 1999.

A & L -

have any of the print/video/audio media said any more about the computer failure. Sure wish someone would ask the obvious question.


-- justme (finally@home.com), June 11, 1999.

justme, we're still looking, wanting to understand this better.

Too much pressure = rupture; Too little pressure = rupture, i.e. indications of a rupture
What caused the computer to receive faulty information? Was it info of faults, or incorrect info, or a glitch which caused a fault, or a safety alert incorrectly interpreted, or other possibilities? Don't know yet. Did a construction puncture cause a rupture, which caused a pressure reading that was "faulty?" Did a computer snafu block normal controls so that too much pressure caused a rupture which showed unusual readings on the computer? So far the chicken < -- > egg question hasn't been answered, that we can find yet.

Have found two more articles, but exactly what triggered the computer problems and the rupture is unclear. Of course, after any industrial-type initial shock, the lawyers and PR folk come out and polish the info releases, so the truth rarely comes out; lawsuit CYA. If one looks at our posts above, we never said it was a Y2K computer problem, just that computer problems combined with or controlling volatile substances can have bad consequences.

Since it is 1999, we have to look at the nature of known incidents resulting from, or combined with, computer problems to try to understand what may happen as a result of Y2K computer problems. When we learn that many chemical plants and gas lines of various sorts are regulated in part through computers, then problems with those facilities go on our "Prepare For" list.

We then take that List to our FEMA meetings and try to get answers as to how we can protect ourselves and our neighbors from potential problems.

For deadly but semi-quick-pass-through chemical spills, we attended the Shelter-In-Place training session, and posted the instructions onto the Forum.

For gas line problems, we learned how to shut off the gas line if the meter wheels are spinning too fast or there is a strong smell of gas in the air. It is good to tie a large neon red ribbon to utility on/off valves/levers/switches so one can quickly identify them in an emergency and in the dark with a flashlight.

It is easy to turn off a house gas line, but the problem with that is, only the gas company guy can turn it back on for safety reasons. After earthquakes, sometimes it takes weeks for ppl to get their gas turned back on because of the long waiting list of homeowners who turned it off. Of course if there's any danger you want to turn it off! But to avoid the waiting list, and shivering in the cold for weeks waiting, you can go to a Fire Dept class on how to turn your gas back on safely. These classes are usually co-taught by a rep from the gas co.

We haven't taken that class yet -- no natural gas pipelines near us at the mo -- but we will take it because we're always going to new houses, new patients -- never know when the info will be necessary to implement.

The idea is, if you're taught, trained & drilled on how to turn the gas off and back on, you can turn it off around, say December 30, or whenever it becomes prudent, and then turn it back on yourself after you're sure the "fix-on-failure" or "testing" or "rollover" period is over, with no worries about waiting for somebody else to do it. Self-reliance! Less burden! Less shivering! :-)

If any experts on gas lines, any/all types, or any or hazards = explosions/fires, wants to lend their expertise, please do so!

Difficult-to-control fires are on the list of CIA first-week-of-rollover worries ...

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

Here is my take on the situation. You are looking for bad news!

Every piece of bad news in the world is posted on this forum. You all go looking for it. A year ago most of this news would have passed without any of you hearing about it. It's call LOCAL NEWS folks. Get a grip. The internet has opened up a whole new news service and as fast as it's posted, it land on this forum.

Everyone assumes it's Y2K related. NOT!!!

-- GeeGee (GeeGee@madtown.com), June 11, 1999.

Wrong, GeeGee.

Often we're looking for local, state, national or international news which is Y2K-related and/or indicators of possible Y2K "scenarios."

Yes, it tends to focus on the "bad" news, rather than the "good" news, or the "spin" news, because we're looking for indicators of potential PROBLEMS.

See how that works? Contingency planners do it... all the time.

They've also learned that "trained" people are better prepared people.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), June 11, 1999.

Thanx squared, Diane ;^)

This is a Preparation Forum. Why would somebody be here if they did not want to look for and pinpoint possible problems and brainstorm/share ways to avoid/fix those problems?

This is not the Cheerleader Happy Face Smiling Ostrich Positive Picnic Forum!

We don't have to be ESP engineers, we don't have to know exactly why XYZ incident went astray -- all we need to know is general parameters of prep-prudent areas and what we can do to survive and thrive thru potential disruptions of "normal" life in those red-flag areas.

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

Ashton & Leska (as well as Diane):

A&L: You said: "This is a Preparation Forum. Why would somebody be here if they did not want to look for and pinpoint possible problems and brainstorm/share ways to avoid/fix those problems?"

My response to this one is that I haven't seen any ways presented that you, I, anyone on this forum could fix problems with a gas-line breaking and the catastrophic results that ensued. These things happen, they've ALWAYS happened, and they will CONTINUE to happen DESPITE Y2k.

I'm ALL for preparation. It makes common sense. However, I feel that Gee-Gee has a point. You have NO IDEA what harm you are doing by ONLY concentrating on bad news and conspiracy theories on this forum. In fact, you're being as dishonest as the "happy-face-spin- doctors" that you mentioned.

In 1998, I prepared for Y2k, based on the information at the time. It becomes addictive. Where is the end? I STILL can't pass up a sale on canned goods that I enjoy, or water. I have more than I'll EVER need (and could feed and water a passing army.) In 1998, my electric company and utilities were NOT in good shape. My measures were prudent at the time. Since then, however, my utility providers have moved forward. We'll see NO problems. Did I get this information from some spin? No. I got this information from weekly discussions with these folks and folks working on the problems...starting in 1998 and working up to the present.

There are folks out there who are cashing in their IRA's based on information found on this forum. There are folks out there who are willing to take all their money out of banks and store it .... where?...based on information found on this forum. There are folks out there who are relocating to unknown areas based on information found on this forum.

I hate to disagree with you, and I'm sure I'll get flamed for my thoughts, but I've always agreed with my dad that honesty is the best policy. Y2k is NOT a one-size fits all problem. It's IMPORTANT to keep up with both the progress AND the slippage regarding Y2k. It's important to get your information from reliable sources. It's important to relate the truth.


-- Anita Spooner (spoonera@msn.com), June 11, 1999.

Hhmm, certainly it's important to get your information from reliable sources, and it's important to relate the truth. That's why we keep going to all these meetings with the top heads of all these industries. They say at those meetings that they can't tell the whole truth. We do happen to tell the truth. Even at the meetings LOL!

When we moved to our current storage apt, we made sure to choose one which DID NOT have a gas line running through it. Not because of Y2K, but because we're in Mega-earthquake country. The first storage apt we had, we got in the middle of the night during the Terrible Floods of 96, evacuating. Unknown at the time, but the main gas pipe went directly over our heads to the furnace for the pool pump. Very noisy & nerve-wracking on several levels.

If somebody reading this Forum were to see that gas lines can be problems for a variety of reasons, and then chose to research for themselves as to their own locality and needs, and on that basis then decided to maybe not choose a place to reside during 2000 right near a gas line, we would feel that might be a good thing.

You are free to present opposing views, and to sit and party astride a gas pipeline at Rollover.

xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxx

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 11, 1999.

Anita --- No one is selling anything here (almost no one). People are not victims, despite our current world view on that. Anyone who preps or withdraws money from bank is doing so based on their own analysis of the evidence.

With due respect, I believe the idea that some entity called "the forum" is responsible to do something called "provide balanced news" is poppycock.

You are free to post all the "good news" you want to, every day if you'd like. If people don't think it stands up to scrutiny, so be it. The "lurker" can make up his/her own mind and act/not act accordingly.

Many of us here believe, based on evidence from our own remediation work and our contacts with people active on Y2K (and some of our contacts are very high-up) that Y2K is still heading towards a likely disaster. For you, that's anecdotal. Fine. Like I said, this isn't a "news service". It's an Internet forum.

Caveat emptor, with respect to ANY Internet forum.

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), June 11, 1999.


I don't know what a "storage apartment" is. Please clarify.

You wrote:

"You are free to present opposing views, and to sit and party astride a gas pipeline at Rollover."

I (for one) won't be partying at rollover. I'll be asleep. AFAIK, gas pipelines are marked in our area so that folks don't dig near them. You are suggesting that gas pipelines will all explode at rollover? Again, please clarify.


-- Anita Spooner (spoonera@msn.com), June 11, 1999.

Big Dog:

Thank you. You've made your point VERY clear.


-- Anita Spooner (spoonera@msn.com), June 11, 1999.


You needn't respond to my latest questions. Big Dog has made it quite clear to me who is welcome on this forum and who is not. I won't trouble you further.


-- Anita Spooner (spoonera@msn.com), June 12, 1999.

Huh? He did? If you have something sincere to say, don't leave.
Well, even that's high criteria considering the fun we were just having on a really goofy thread ;^) But it's sincere fun, at least for us.

What would REALLY BE welcome on this Forum would be a Search Engine and comprehensive FAQs for specific oft-bandied topics.
There we go again, those same practical useful suggestions, pushing everybody's Ignore buttons ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

Actually, just about everything has been thrashed 'n hashed quite thoroughly in the archives, except of course for Breaking News, which is why at this point there are so many Allegedly Off Topic threads.

We just get fingerbone tired of repeating ourselves ... we're winding down ... sputtering out ... gonna be ghostly wraith lurkers pretty soon.

And then the cybergnomes will go hungry ...

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 12, 1999.

This forum is intended for people who are concerned about the impact of the Y2000 problem on their personal lives, and who want to discuss various fallback contingency plans with other like-minded people.


-- A little (about@TB.2000), June 12, 1999.

Thanks to whoever posted that entire mass of valuable hot links! WheeHee!

And the Forum mission statement, simple and precise, cannot be reprinted too often! ;^)

Reading comprehension 101. Think maybe that's the crux of the polly/doomer dyslexia.

We wrote: "This is not the Cheerleader Happy Face Smiling Ostrich Positive Picnic Forum!"
A statement of obvious fact, tongue-in-cheek, duh.

GeeGee wrote: "Ashton and Leska referred to me as an ostrich."

Reading Comprehension 101, remedial course, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 12, 1999.

This forum is intended for people who are concerned about the impact of the Y2000 problem on their personal lives, and who want to discuss various fallback contingency plans with other like-minded people.
[play back at regular intervals]

-- A little more (repeatingabout@TB.2000), June 12, 1999.

A course in Manners 101 is also HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !

Miss Manners was posting a ways back ... hhmmm. Etiquette decorum finishing school, meet in the parlor this afternoon, white gloves mandatory.

BTW, for those of you who haven't actually met us yet, Ashton is even more the activist and prepper than Leska, and is more charged. Testier too ;^)

Now to get back on track with gas-fire-explosion awareness and mitigation planning ...

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 12, 1999.

Meanwhile, back to the pipeline. A followup in the Seattle Times at http://www.seattletimes.com/news/local/html98/howw_19990612.ht ml adds a few details.

"At about that time, the computer system stopped - just seized up and quit," Brentson said. A backup system, developed for just such problems, had also gone out of service.

What technicians discovered later was that earlier in the day, as information for maintenance programs was added to the computers, a flaw in the program caused the data to eat up much more space than it should. In short, the company's computers - both its main and backup systems - crashed.

When that happens, Brentson said, devices along the pipeline automatically shut it down, halting the flow of fuel into the system. Valves and pumps are commanded according to a preset plan intended to minimize the chances of exactly what was about to take place.

Investigators are likely to study whether any flaw in the automatic-shutdown procedure may have caused or contributed to the leak.

About 4:30 p.m., with the computer back in operation - and still no knowledge that a leak had occurred - controllers restarted a pump that puts fuel into the pipeline at Ferndale.

About 12 minutes after that, Brentson said, controllers noticed that pressure had not increased in the line, indicating the possibility that fuel was escaping. Calls were made to alert the appropriate agencies.

I have not found any description of a likely magnitude of impact on fuel supplies in the area resulting from the unavailability of this pipeline, or what alternative means of supply may be readily available.


-- Jerry B (skeptic76@erols.com), June 12, 1999.

Thank you, Jerry, very much for finding new info. A person eMailed this: "Did you also hear KGW report that the Bellingham gas line explosion seems to be due in part to their computer being shut down? The actual quote was that just prior to the accident their computer was shut down- didn't state reason or link cause and effect. Gas prices rose immediately 8 cents a gallon. Lars Larson had a gentleman on from the industry who stated that the industry would much rather run up prices in order to intentionally limit product sales- the real thing they fear is running out of gas at the pumps yet we're all supposed to fill up the last week in January.
Makes one pause."

Will go scouting for more news articles ...

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 12, 1999.

From a sad description of catastrophic damages at

Bellingham fireball turned dreams of reviving salmon habitat to ashes

... "The fuel leak occurred Thursday afternoon shortly after a failure of the main computer that controls movement of gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuel through the pipeline. Fuel may have been spilling for 12 minutes or longer before it was detected. The amount spilled has not been determined, but estimates ranged from 84,000 gallons to 277,000 gallons." ...

Still looking ...

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 12, 1999.

Anita --- I'm not sure how you got that reaction from my post. I'll email you separately. Neither I nor anyone else has the power or authority to determine who posts "what" on this forum (barring outrageous obscenity). THAT was exactly my point. You CAN post all the good news you want. Other people DO.

I'm simply saying that there is not some "entity" called "the" forum that has some obligation about how "it" presents things.

I'm also saying that whatever anyone, regular or lurker, decides to do about what is posted is entirely their responsibility. Indeed, caveat emptor.

Did I miss something?

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), June 12, 1999.

Interesting "live action" scenario going on here.


Keep up the good work!


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), June 12, 1999.

Don't do this at home.

-- alpha (x@y.z), June 12, 1999.

[ For Educational Purposes Only ]

Pipeline inferno leaves 3 dead in Bellingham

Officials are still unsure what caused a gasoline line break that fueled a series of huge explosions Thursday

Saturday, June 12, 1999, By Tim Klass of The Associated Press

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- A gigantic fireball fed by thousands of gallons of gasoline that had spewed from a burst pipeline thundered a mile and a half down a park creekbed, killing three people, including two young boys who had been playing by the stream.

Witnesses, some of whom ran for their lives as they were sickened by gas fumes, said the inferno that erupted Thursday afternoon evoked visions of the air war in Vietnam.

Neighbors said gasoline ran 4 inches deep down Whatcom Creek, a peaceful stream that continues through residential neighborhoods and the downtown of this northwest Washington city of 60,000 on its way to Bellingham Bay. The fuel ignited in a series of explosions that sent a huge cloud of black smoke six miles into the air.

The cause of the leak was not immediately known, nor was the source of the ignition, said officials of Olympic Pipe Line Co., operators of the line. Spot fires still burned Friday.
Estimates of the amount spilled ranged from 84,000 gallons to 277,000 gallons.

Two 10-year-old playmates, Wade King and Stephen Tsiorvas, died Friday morning at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle of second- and third-degree burns that covered 90 percent of their bodies.
Olympic is owned by a consortium of oil companies, and the operating manager of Olympic is Equilon Enterprises, a joint venture of Texaco and Shell. Equilon also is the owner of a refinery in nearby Anacortes, where an explosion and fire killed six workers in November.

The line resumed carrying oil products from refineries at Anacortes, south of Bellingham, late Thursday, she said, but remained closed from Anacortes north.

The pipeline system that delivers to Portland resumed operations about midnight Thursday, said Ron Brentson, supervisor of product movements for Olympic Pipeline. Only two of four refineries are able to ship fuel because of the explosion, he said, and some interruptions in Portland's service could occur.

The disaster occurred as Olympic prepared to go before the state Parks and Recreation Commission on Friday to seek permission to run another pipeline across state land. Commissioners rejected that request, saying a staff report earlier this week had recommended against it, but at least one panel member said the Bellingham explosion underscored the decision.

Bellingham Fire Kills Three

... The entire line had shut down automatically at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday when a valve in Seattle closed for as-yet undetermined reasons, she said. When the operations center tried to restart the line about 45 minutes later, pressure within the pipe would not return to normal levels. The pipeline was again shut down, she said. ...

Questions, sadness linger in fire's aftermath

Questions, sadness linger in fire's aftermath
Investigators looking at all possibilities in pipeline rupture

BELLINGHAM -- After more than an hour of computer problems and shutting, then trying to restart, its 400-mile fuel pipeline, Olympic Pipe Line Co. officials got a call from an employee Thursday afternoon.

Rick Kiene, a chemist who happened to be in the area, was checking the pipeline in Bellingham and smelled gasoline.

Ten minutes later, Kiene called Olympic Pipe Line Co. offices in Renton again to say he was running from a wall of fire.

Two workers from the Environmental Protection Agency walk along an area near Whatcom Creek charred by Thursday's pipeline fire in Bellingham. Flames raced about a mile down Whatcom Creek, nearly reaching Interstate 5, scorching everything in their path and killing a teenager and two boys.

The confusion that prevailed Thursday did not end yesterday, as investigators began to try to pinpoint the cause of the rupture and subsequent fire that reached temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Neither investigators nor the company could offer an explanation. Kiene last night declined to talk about the incident.

Spot fires continued to flare up yesterday, meaning investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board couldn't get close to the line, which ruptured where it jogs around a Bellingham water-treatment plant.

See also:
Schools shaken by student deaths
Company's plan for cross-Cascades line rejected
Why a paradise for kids turned to hell may go unanswered
Gas suppliers rush to adjust; impact on prices uncertain
Fire boiled and killed a bucolic urban creek

... Olympic officials say the 16-inch pipeline poured out 84,000 to 277,000 gallons of gasoline in 14 to 16 minutes Thursday afternoon, enough fuel to float 4 inches deep on top of the creek.

Investigators will try to determine what happened to the line, which was buried 7 to 8 feet. An NTSB official said nothing indicated that the line was deliberately punctured. But he said no cause has been ruled out.

Nor has the source of ignition been found.

"It is possible that we'll never know what the cause is," said Randy Carroll, deputy police chief in Bellingham. He said he could not rule out reports the 10-year-olds were seen playing with fireworks.

According to an oil industry report released in May, outside forces -- typically someone digging -- cause 38 percent of all oil pipeline leaks. Officials said there was no construction in the area Thursday.

The next most-likely cause is corrosion, which accounts for 20 percent of leaks, according to the report by New York consultant Cheryl Trench. Companies try to guard against corrosion with a variety of sensors and typically check every five years to determine the thickness of pipes, federal regulators said yesterday.

The Olympic pipeline, which bisects Washington from the Canadian border to the Columbia River, was built in the 1950s, and was buried in 1966. A company test in 1996 showed the pipe was thinner than when built, but still within tolerable limits, said Joann Hamick, a company spokeswoman.

Critics of Olympic say one question that must be answered is why it took the company so long to discover the leak.

Company officials yesterday said the pipeline shut down at 3:25 p.m. because of a computer problem apparently unrelated to the rupture. The problem cropped up as the company redirected the flow from the line to a storage terminal on Harbor Island.

At the time, 378,000 gallons of gasoline an hour were flowing through the pipeline.

Workers traced the problem, but the pipeline wasn't restarted until about 4:30 p.m., when the pressure had dropped dramatically, Hamick said.

At about that time, Bellingham firefighters were already investigating reports of a gasoline smell in the creek. They found a vapor cloud 10 feet in the air. It shimmered, much like the horizon on a hot day.

Kiene, the Olympic employee, reported the fumes at 4:45 p.m.

In his second call, "he said he was running from the scene. It was on fire," Hamick said.

Sensors never indicated a leak, though Olympic executives said yesterday the drop in pressure was probably a result of the leak. Still, they had no explanation for the leak.

"One has to question the adequacy of the detection system," said Charles Batten, who for 23 years investigated pipeline accidents for the NTSB.

He is now a consultant and working with property owners and cities trying to stop Olympic from building a new pipeline over the Cascades.

Federal regulators performed routine inspections of the pipeline and the company, in 1985, 1987, 1990, 1995 and in March of this year. The pipeline safety regulators at the U.S. Transportation Department took part in a spill-response test with Olympic last year, said Richard Felder, DOT's associate administrator for pipeline safety.

In all those inspections, regulators never cited Olympic for violating rules, Felder said, although in March they raised some concerns.

In a letter to the company, regulators reminded the company to keep its right-of-way clean of brush so that it could be inspected from the air, and to follow procedures as it adopted operating rules from the companies that own it.

Regulators also noted corrosion on valve bolts. Felder said the valve, which was in a vault that had filled with water, is 13 miles away from Thursday's rupture and is "an isolated incident." "There doesn't appear to be a relationship between the letter and the incident (on Thursday)," Felder added.

But he also noted that pipeline accidents have occurred at other companies with equally clean records. Olympic is jointly operated by several companies. Equilon Enterprises, the managing partner, also operates an Anacortes refinery where an explosion in November killed six workers.

The leak itself is typical in an industry that moves 525 billion gallons of oil a year through pipelines. Indeed, oil pipelines have had an average of 197 leaks a year.

What was unusual about the Bellingham leak is the devastating fire afterward. A check of the NTSB's data base showed several oil pipeline accidents in recent years, but only one other fire.

That occurred in October 1994 when eight pipelines ruptured during flooding of the San Jacinto River near Houston. Like Whatcom Creek, the river ignited, injuring 547 people.

"You really need to have enough of a concentration of flammable vapor and an ignition source," said Michele Joy, general counsel for the Association of Pipe Lines, an industry group based in Washington, D.C.

"That rarely happens since spills occur over a large area and the vapors dissipate," she said. "Fires are uncommon," said Trench, who performed the pipeline safety study released in May. "And, Lord knows, so are these fatalities."

But the oil pipelines that criss-cross the nation present the potential of more San Jacintos and Whatcom Creeks. The problem, said Batten, the former NTSB official, is that neither the regulators nor the industry seem to be taking much heed.

Situations like those in Bellingham, where people live next to pipelines, are common. Federal regulators have no rules about how far away people have to build from pipelines, Felder said.

Companies do typically have 100 feet of right of way. But federal regulators leave it up to zoning by local government to decide how close people can build, Felder said.

As a result, suburban developments and other growth have brought housing to areas that were rural when many pipelines were built in the 1950s and 1960s.

The NTSB has been warning about the proximity of pipelines and homes since 1983, Batten said.

"It's only going to get worse," Batten said. "We do need this product transported into urban areas." Pipeline companies use all manner of systems to detect leaks, including sensors that "hear" the leak of oil and others that signal the escape of hydrocarbons.

Olympic uses pressure and temperature data fed into a computer model that is supposed to detect changes as small as 1 percent of flow. However, Batten said he has yet to be convinced the system is that sensitive.

The company also uses visual inspections, including weekly overflights.

Pipelines can be shut down manually, often by turning large wheels to close a series of stop valves. The stop valve nearest to Thursday's rupture was one-tenth of a mile away.

====================================================================== ======

After reading many articles, we're noticing the inevitable confusion and non-matching accounts. But the pictures say it all. Gas and other volatile substances which are controlled by computers are danger points to be researched, thought through, and prepared for in relation to possible Y2K computer failures coming soon to a pipe and scorched earth near you ...

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 12, 1999.

This is why the many thousands of miles of natural gas transmission lines are at risk next year.

The gasoline here merely "flowed" from shutdown conditions after isolation valves were shut: supposedly for only twelve minutes. But the gasoline upstream and downstream from the leak itself (at the burst site) would continue flowing until all gas had leaked out. think of a graden hose, with the outlet end shutoff, and the valve shutoff. The hose is still under pressure. If you poke a hole in the side of the hose - the trapped water (gasoline) will keep leaking out until the leak is plugged or the hose drains.

Same thing happened here.

In a natural gas line, the gas is under 1000-2000 psi

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), June 12, 1999.

This is why the many thousands of miles of natural gas transmission lines are at risk next year.

The gasoline here merely "flowed" from shutdown conditions after isolation valves were shut: supposedly for only twelve minutes. But the gasoline upstream and downstream from the leak itself (at the burst site) would continue flowing until all gas had leaked out. think of a graden hose, with the outlet end shutoff, and the valve shutoff. The hose is still under pressure. If you poke a hole in the side of the hose - the trapped water (gasoline) will keep leaking out until the leak is plugged or the hose drains.

Same thing happened here.

In a natural gas line, the gas is under 1000-2000 psig, flares (200 - 400 feet of flames above ground) have burned for dozens of hours as pressure slowly goes down.

Yep - this is NOT Y2K-related, but as clearly stated above several times, this is the KIND of failure (despite or because of) MANUAL controls that are used after computer failures that will most likely be typical in many areas after (if) Y2K causes control system failures.

And manual control become less reliable as people become confused, fatigued (after several shifts/days/weeks on extra duty), or are faced with unclear and inconsistent data from comm failues.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), June 12, 1999.

Thank you for the confirmation, Robert. More:

[ For Educational Purposes Only ]

A 'river of gasoline,' then panic in Bellingham

Posted at 10:42 p.m. PDT; Sunday, June 13, 1999
by Kim Barker, Seattle Times staff reporter

An odor of gasoline. Heather Sugden smelled it, just when she left that afternoon to pick up her kids from day care, driving the same bridge over Whatcom Creek she always does. She figured it was a lawn mower.

An RV salesman smelled it, too. He checked under his car, to see if his tank was leaking. Nobody thought gasoline pipeline. Nobody really even knew it was there, in their back yards, near the winding creek, where kids played, teenagers fished and couples walked.

By the end of that Thursday, as many as 277,000 gallons of gasoline from the Olympic Pipe Line would spill and ignite. Three boys would die and the upper reaches of a lush, green creek would be destroyed.

This area of Bellingham mixes neighborhoods and businesses, duplexes and a stretch called Auto Row. Neighbors walk down the middle of streets. Teens zip by on skateboards. Lots of people go to Whatcom Falls Park.

Thursday afternoon, Heidi Olds, 13, fought with her mom because she wanted to walk the dog in the park. Candice Olds was unaware of the leak, but for other reasons told Heidi to stay home.

Did Liam Wood smell the gasoline? Wood, 18, who just graduated from high school, kept casting, fishing for cutthroat or rainbow trout. Clouds covered the sky, the temperature hovered at 63 degrees, and the wind blew about 4 mph. Not a bad day for fly fishing.

Wade King and Stephen Tsiorvas, 10-year-olds with one day left in the fourth grade, played a short distance away, perhaps oblivious to any odor.

Neighbors called 911. The firefighters from Engine Company 54 got the emergency call about the odor, but those calls usually are nothing, the day's equivalent of a cat stuck in a tree. For the firefighters, it had been a day of training - that morning, they had a course on hazardous-spill procedures.

That afternoon, when they got the call, they were practicing pulling hoses from their truck.

Computer trouble

The Olympic Pipe Line stretches 400 miles from Bellingham to Portland. Jet fuel, diesel and gasoline are pushed through the system, one right after the other. Gasoline burns the easiest.

The computers at company headquarters in Renton swallow 4,000 bits of data every 5 seconds. They direct fuel, whether it goes to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport or to a spur line out to Seattle's Harbor Island.

On Thursday morning, a maintenance-program flaw caused the data to eat much more computer space than data should.

About 3:25 p.m., a controller in Renton started the routine process of shutting off the flow of gasoline to one customer and starting the flow to another.

But the computer was sluggish. Then an alarm came on the screen, saying a pump in Woodinville failed to start.

The computers - both the main and backup - started to crash. The pipeline responded. Devices started shutting down and valves and pumps stopped the flow of fuel.

This was the failsafe, the backup plan if the backup computers failed, and this was supposed to prevent anything really bad from ever happening.

Checks were made. Everything was supposed to be fine. Olympic Pipe Line turned its computers back on. One hundred miles away in Bellingham, the neighbors smelled gasoline. About 4:25 p.m., they started calling 911 to report the odor.

Five minutes later, the company restarted a pump that puts fuel into the pipe at Ferndale, just north of Bellingham.

About 12 minutes later, controllers noticed that pressure hadn't increased on the line. That meant fuel might be escaping.

Then a company field worker who happened to be near Whatcom Creek called headquarters.
"I think we've got a problem," he said. "I smell gasoline."

The river was yellow

The Bellingham firefighters of Engine Company 54 pulled up to the corner of Woburn and Iowa streets. Firefighter Ryan Provencher didn't see anything.

But then he looked at Capt. Jeff Jaquish, whose eyes grew wide when he looked at a nearby bridge over Whatcom Creek. There was a shimmery cloud of fumes. Jaquish knew he had a problem. He called for backup.

Provencher walked to the bridge and looked into the ravine. The river was yellow.

"It was just a river of gasoline, like someone released a dam that held back a lake of gasoline," Provencher said. "The fumes were so thick I couldn't see through. The smell was nauseating."

Emergency dispatchers called Olympic Pipe Line and asked if something was wrong.
Firefighters started closing off the streets.

Provencher and firefighter Kelly Devlin were ordered to look for the source of the gasoline leak. The two drove upstream near the water-treatment plant at Whatcom Falls Park, then walked along a trail above the plant. They didn't smell gasoline, didn't see any in the creek. They asked two fishing teenagers if they had smelled gasoline. The teenagers hadn't.

From where they were standing: "We didn't feel we were in any danger at all," Provencher said.

Evacuation was haphazard

Heather Sugden was worried, though. She again told a friend on the telephone that she smelled gasoline. Her two boys, both asthmatics, played in the front yard with a toy firetruck.

"Maybe there's a gas leak somewhere," Sugden's friend told her.
Then she heard the neighbors, shouting back and forth about leaving.
It was a haphazard evacuation, spurred by firefighters and word of mouth.

Upstream in the park, still hunting for the gasoline leak, Provencher and Kelly found a woman who smelled it, and they started following her to where she had noticed it.

They never found the source of the leak, which officials now say was likely where the pipe runs underground, near the water-treatment plant.

A spark - a bottle rocket? a spark plug? - set off a series of booms about 5 p.m., one right after another, sending up fireballs and a plume of black smoke 6 miles high.

It sounded like a jet was thundering through the valley. Provencher and Kelly looked at each other and ran.

They came across a mother, father and two toddlers, dazed. Each firefighter grabbed a kid and carried them up the hill. The parents followed. One fireball became two then one flashed toward them. The firefighters helped the family to safety, then yelled at the teenage fishermen to get the hell out of there.

The pipeline employee called Olympic headquarters again. He said the fuel had ignited, and he was running from the fireballs.

Thomas Wilkerson was painting a sailboat at his shop. He stood up to stretch.

"I put my arms over my head," Wilkerson said. "I'm stretching and kablam. It was boom, boom, boom." He fell back, still holding a paint brush dripping with two-part polyurethane.

Sugden's phone went dead. She grabbed her two boys and her daughter and ran inside, and tried to hide everyone under a bed. But that didn't work, so she stood in the living room, stunned for a minute. Then she grabbed a diaper bag, a can of formula and her kids and headed for the car.

Three doors away, Don Alderson also heard the blasts and decided to leave.

All of their neighbors had the same idea. Traffic was thick, and the stoplights were out. It took Sugden 20 minutes to drive 1.5 miles.

By then, Alderson's house had exploded.

10-year-olds jumped in water
Tyrone Francisco, 16, was hanging out in the woods with Andrew Tsiorvas, Stephen's older brother.
They heard the booms and Tyrone started running.
Wade and Stephen jumped in the water, apparently to stop the burning.

Tyrone found Wade first, and carried him back to the house. Then Tyrone heard Stephen screaming for help.

At first the boy was too hot to touch. Then Tyrone carried him back to the house as well. The older boys didn't want to let the younger ones see each other.

"Wade didn't want his mother to know," Andrew Tsiorvas told The Bellingham Herald. "He said she'd be too sad and mad at him."

The boys, their clothes gone and burns over 90 percent of their bodies, were rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Later that night, fisherman Wood's body was found 1,000 feet downstream from the boys.

When the gasoline blew, the water temperature spiked, sucking the oxygen out of the water. The fish - trout, salmon and lamprey - couldn't breathe. An environmental engineer guessed that some dove. Some tried to hide in rocks. The ones who tried to get air on the surface were burned to a crisp.

"Everything is dead," said Mark Kaufman, Bellingham-based environmental specialist for the Department of Ecology. "I've never seen anything like this."

Wade died at the hospital early Friday, and Stephen died hours later.

Flowers and teddy bears
The park was closed yesterday. People left flowers and small teddy bears for the three youths. They wrote messages: "Into His arms you have fallen and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

A memorial service for Liam Wood is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday in Bellingham's Broadway Park.
Services for Wade King are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bellingham. Stephen Tsiorvas' family couldn't be reached for comment.

Two days after the inferno, the scorched river still looked like ground zero. It looked like the sky rained napalm. It looked like Mount St. Helens. Everyone had a cliche, but no description did justice to the washed-out eeriness.

The river corridor burned white. It's now a winding moonscape covered in ash and cottonwood dander. The smell of gasoline was still thick enough to cause headaches.

People came out to look. Children played in the ash. Neighbors were in shock.

"It looked like one of those scenes from the volcano movies," said Cedric Johnson, 12, whose family lives near Whatcom Falls Park. "You couldn't see the sky. It still amazes me when I see blue sky, because all I can picture are those black billowing clouds over the park."

Neighbors talked about the idea of getting back to normal, but the idea of normal has changed. Now they know what's in the pipeline. Now they know where it is.

"The park is just so beautiful," said Cedric's mother, Rebecca Johnson. "I knew there was a pipeline, but I never realized it was gasoline."

Seattle Times staff reporters Nancy Bartley, Ian Ith, Keiko Morris and Chris Solomon contributed to this report


This on a normal day when the infrastructure was up and running ...

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 13, 1999.

A & L,

Thank you for the ongoing info on this disaster. Whether y2k related or not it solves the question about computers having any effect on pipelines etc. I think this was very important information. I was away for the weekend and unable to listen to news. This was very helpful for me for many reasons. Thanks

-- Moore Dinty moore (not@thistime.com), June 14, 1999.

Thanks A & L and everybody that contributed information to this thread. I found what I was looking for. Much appreciated.


-- Ann Mulvey (annmulvey@compuserve.com), June 15, 1999.

Last year we started warning family and friends that we would see two kinds of computer problems in 1999: lookahead failures where the computer date-horizon starts to hit 2000, and failures from y2k fixes rushed into production to make scheduled deadlines.

With that in mind, the key phrase for me was "a maintenance-program flaw caused the data to eat much more computer space ...". I have no idea what the flaw was, but suspect that it hadn't been there too long. A memory leak (as geeks would phrase what the reporter is probably describing) tends to crash a machine pretty quickly when live data is pumped through, but can look just fine in short runs with limited data. Of course, this might be a memory leak that happens under only unusual circumstances, or it might be on the main logic path. No way to be sure.

A possible reason why such a flaw might show up would include this: the "maintenance program" may have been newly installed for Y2k compliance. Alternatively, since reporters have a VERY tough time with accuracy in tech points that are easy for old geeks, perhaps this was a maintenance subroutine in a newly installed pipeline management program. Doesn't really matter.

Point being, that kind of flaw, and catastrophic consequences, are a predictable symptom of the time pressure we are now under. To suspect such a link comes easily if you've spent a career debugging programs. That this is an example of such a result remains unproven, and we might never get the full story. So, in a world where Y2k compliance is surrounded by lies, spin and happy faces, suspicion will remain.

Small and large disasters, when caused by new programs (or program modifications) to get ready for Y2k, are NOT simply isolated computer problems. These ARE the Y2k problem, in one of the several manifestations it will show. The FAA "beta testing" on consumers (if true) is another manifestation. We are not awaiting the Y2k events, we are in the middle of them, whether or not the symptoms or errors are large enough to register in the media.

-- bw (home@puget.sound), June 15, 1999.

To Moore & Ann, you are very welcome! Thank you to all the geeks 'n engineers who can explain these possibilities and help us understand how computer programs/chips run systems and how their failures can affect the real world.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 15, 1999.

Good analysis "bw" - and a good, clear explanation of the effect.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), June 15, 1999.

More to think about as we prepare to "go manual:"


Wednesday, 16 June 1999 13:13 (GMT), (UPI Spotlight)

Human Error Blamed For Mich. Gas Fires

BATTLE CREEK, Mich., June 16 (UPI) - A utility company is blaming (Wednesday) human error and an inaccurate pipeline map for the rush of high-pressure natural gas that sparked 21 house fires in a Battle Creek neighborhood.

Semco Energy spokeswoman Roberta Floyd says a utility crew at a road construction site mistakenly routed high pressure gas into a low pressure pipeline Tuesday, turning pilot lights into flame throwers.
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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 16, 1999.

Just up on AP Breaking News:

6/17/99 -- 8:59 PM

Authorities: Lighter triggered massive Washington blast

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) - Two boys playing with a lighter unwittingly ignited a stream filled with leaking gasoline, touching off a gigantic fireball that killed them and a fisherman last week, police said Thursday.

An estimated 277,000 gallons of gasoline gushed from a leaking underground pipeline owned by Olympic Pipe Line Co. on June 10.

It ran down Whatcom Creek, which runs through residential neighborhoods and the downtown of this northwest Washington city of 60,000.

The fuel caused several explosions, sent a black cloud six miles into the air and touched off a fireball that raced down the stream for a mile and a half.

Bellingham Mayor Mark Asmundson said Thursday said the 10-year-old boys who died were ``unwitting heroes'' because the leak was bound to lead to a fire anyway. ``We're fortunate it occurred'' before it reached downtown Bellingham, he said.

Police found the lighter near where the two boys had been playing, and witnesses and one of the boys also said the lighter sparked the fireball. The boy later died from burns.

The cause of the leak remained under investigation.
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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 17, 1999.

from csy2k:

"One potential cause being investigated is "water hammer" type surges in the line caused by the computer crash.

During cleanup, many pockets of explosive fumes were found in the Bellingham sewer system. They are fortunate the whole city didn't go up .... "
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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 20, 1999.

The latest -- [ For Educational Purposes Only ]

6/24 Hearings Not Delayed

State panel refuses to delay new pipeline hearings; five Olympic employees refuse to talk

By REBECCA COOK, The Associated Press, 06/24/99 5:31 AM Eastern

LAKEWOOD, Wash. (AP) -- As the National Transportation Safety Board searches for answers in the fatal Bellingham pipeline explosion, Olympic Pipe Line Co. will be defending plans to build a new fuel pipeline across the Cascades.

The company had hoped to separate the two issues.

"The responsible thing for us to do is to get to the bottom of Bellingham before we promote an expansion," Olympic spokeswoman Ellen Howe said.

But a state board on Wednesday denied the company's request to delay the hearings on the new pipeline until investigators figure out what went wrong in Bellingham. The hearings would resume next week, the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council said.

Meanwhile, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator said five Olympic employees, citing their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, are refusing to answer questions about the June 10 gas pipeline leak and fire.

The workers were not identified, but two of them were pipeline controllers and another was their supervisor, chief NTSB investigator Allan Beshore said. He did not disclose the duties of the other two. All worked at Olympic's headquarters in Renton.

Three people died, a house was destroyed and a 1 1/2-mile stretch along once-lush, salmon-bearing Whatcom Creek was burned to a crisp when as much as 277,000 gallons of gasoline caught fire.

Opponents of Olympic's plan to build a 231-mile gas pipeline that would run from Bothell to the Tri-Cities say the Bellingham blast confirmed their worst fears.

Olympic had sought to indefinitely delay consideration of its cross-Cascades proposal, saying it was devoting all its resources to the Bellingham investigation.

In addition to noting the response from the five pipeline employees, Beshore said his team has reconstructed more details from the day of the blast.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Beshore said a valve south of Bellingham was accidentally shut about two and a half hours before the fire, causing pressure to build to more than seven times the norm in the pipeline. Pumping units automatically shut down. Beshore said a controller twice re-started or tried to re-start the pumps in the hour before the explosion. A half-hour before the leak ignited, a leak detection system sent an alarm to the pipeline control room, Beshore said.

Beshore also said the NTSB is looking into three "anomalies" found in pipeline surveys done in 1996 and 1997.

In one instance, a gouge found during a 1996 test on the pipeline in the area of the June 10 leak could prove significant, he said. Gouges can weaken a pipeline, making it vulnerable to pressure when the flow of fuel is stopped abruptly. The half-inch-long gouge thinned the pipeline wall by 23 percent.

Beshore said he hopes to be able to excavate the pipeline and examine the rupture by Friday or Saturday.
[ snip ]
He told the council the exact cause of the pipeline rupture doesn't matter much to him. Instead, he said, the fact there are so many possible causes underscores his opposition to expanding Olympic's pipeline system.

"Pipelines are subject to these kinds of catastrophes," he said. "We don't believe the pinning down of the cause of this accident is as relevant as knowing that an accident like this can occur."

Howe disagreed.
"It's risky any way you transport fuel," the Olympic spokeswoman said. "These risks have to be addressed."

[ snip ]
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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 24, 1999.

Gouges and problems like that are common - checked and inspected during routine maintenance. I've heard of worse, and am pleased there were "only" three such discrepancies in that long a pipeline.

Sounds like the opponents are deliberately trying to link the hype from the pipeline explosion to their opposition to a new pipeline.

Pressures "7 times higher than design" don't make any physical sense - these pipelines are usually pressurized from centrifugal pumps that would (at most) run at shut-off head only 3-4 times normal operating pressure. Design pressure is 2-3 times max operating pressure (which comes from a shutoff pump running at full speed on a cold (most viscous) fluid - not a summer temperature fluid in a high fluid gasoline pipe! (Test pressures are 50% higher than max design pressure.)

If they are talking about piping surge pressures from improper valve operation, then they are confusing terms between the operating conditions and the transient conditions caused by bad data. And if data was bad, how could they know what max pressure was during the transient?

Can you see why the operators are being told by their lawyers not to talk to the press? The press isn't reporting valid, consistent data.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), June 24, 1999.

Hey Ashton and Leska and all;

Did any of the reports say if the area suspected of causing the explosion was above or underground? Above ground stretches of pipeline are scary to me. The reasons are obvious, exposure to uncontrolable outside influences. I know of several instances in Alaska, where DumbS... hunters have shot at the oil pipeline. Because of the wall thickness of the pipe, no disaster was ever caused by this form of stupidity, but it is a special breed of cat. Besides I have been told that if anyone ever got close enough to puncture the line, they would undoubtedly be killed by the results, since they would have to be in a proximity too close to avoid the consequences.

This exposure issue remains a worrisome issue with me, coupled with the need for satcom for communication and control of unmanned stations ie; (believe it or not) refrigeration stations, PIG (product control) stations, monitoring stations etc.

GPS is vital, I've been told, to continuing operations of these sites. This however, is personaly unconfirmed.

-- Michael (mikeymac@uswest.net), June 24, 1999.

Michael, it seemed from the above news articles that the ruptured portion was underground, but it is still too hot to look closely.

Somebody did eMail us to say there's info that less-than-desireable groups may be planning sabotage on big gas pipelines.

Whatever the cause of the kabooms, they are volatile highly flammable high-heat and deadly fume-producing events, and if Y2K causes many PoPs with fire responders overextended already, and electricity and communications down -- bad scene. The gas and devouring flames spread very rapidly. Think Kobe -- burnt to the ground in 2 days.

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 24, 1999.

Close-range danger from a leak (spill/rupture) from the pipeline?

Nah - the Alaskan oil pipeline is moving hundreds of tons of low-flamable HEAVY crude - without heating, the stuff flows more motor oil or paint than gasoline. If cold, its more like asphalt - made by puring heavy crude (tar) over small rocks. Any hunter's weapon capable of penetrating the pipe itself would have a range well over the few hundred feet needed to get away from the sludge as it oozes out - but a small hole (rifle bullet) would not really affect the Alaskan pipe.

An above ground natural gas metering or regulating station is a different animal. That might be a nasty target, hard to isolate, hard to fight the fire, unfortunately easy to hit.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), June 24, 1999.

National alert issued in aftermath of Bellingham pipeline incident

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), July 13, 1999.

3 Boys Burned to Death! WHY!!!!!!!

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), July 31, 1999.

[ Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only ]

Bellingham pipeline leaks during high-pressure test

Sunday, September 19, 1999, AP

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- A high-pressure test of the fuel pipeline that ruptured here in June, leading to an explosion and three deaths, resulted in the leak of about 10,000 gallons of water Saturday.

The leak occurred about 1.5 miles from the site of the explosion June 10, in a section of pipe where no weakness had previously been detected. A 37-mile stretch of pipeline has been closed since the explosion.

Maggie Brown, spokeswoman for the Renton-based Olympic Pipe Line Co., said she was disappointed by the test results.

"We would have liked the whole test to have gone 100 percent without a glitch," Brown told KOMO-TV. "That being said, we've put certain precautions in place from the very beginning in the case we did have . . . a leak."

The precautions included staging the company's spill response contractors along the section of pipe being tested. Olympic also provided details of the hydrotest to local emergency agencies, the city's Parks and Recreation Department and other agencies.

Officials from the State Department of Transportation and the state Department of Ecology were on hand for the tests, which were designed to validate the strength of the pipe and its fittings, and the effectiveness of the mainline valves.

More tests were planned for today.

The damaged section of pipeline was excavated for analysis.

Olympic last week filled with water the 10-mile stretch of pipeline that runs through Bellingham. The test of the first of six sections was successfully completed last Thursday, the company said in a statement.

The leak on Saturday occurred during testing of the second section.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), September 20, 1999.

It's been more than 3 days ... still not fixed ...

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), September 20, 1999.

Aahaaaa! A&L

So you noticed the "how many weeks" it's taken to "fix" that pipeline too! Certainly longer than any three day storm! And did you notice, the leak they found wasn't even in a section that had had a weakness reported before? Kinda really makes you wonder how many other "spots" like that there are around the country. Glad I don't live near a pipeline of any sort!

-- Valkyrie (anon@please.net), September 20, 1999.

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