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Encyclopedia > Cleveland East Ohio Gas Explosion

Cleveland East Ohio Gas Explosion occurred on the afternoon of Friday, October 20th, 1944. The resulting gas leak, explosion and fires killed 130 people and destroyed a one square mile area on Cleveland, Ohio’s east side. October 20 is the 293rd day of the year (294th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 72 days remaining. ... 1944 (MCMXLIV) was a leap year starting on Saturday (link will take you to calendar). ... City nickname: The Forest City Location Location in Cuyahoga County, Ohio Government County Cuyahoga Mayor Jane L. Campbell; Frank G. Jackson (mayor-elect) Physical characteristics Area      Land      Water 213. ...

The Disaster

At half past 2 in the afternoon on Friday, October 20, 1944, above ground storage tank number 4, holding liquified natural gas in the East Ohio Gas Company’s tank farm, began to emit a vapor that poured from a seam on the side of the tank. The tank was located near Lake Erie on East 61st Street, and winds from the lake pushed the vapor into a mixed use section of Cleveland, where it dropped into the sewer lines via the catch basins located in the street gutters. Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is natural gas which has been artificially condensed into a liquid form by a combination of pressurisation and cryogenic cooling. ... Vapor (US English) or vapour (British English) is the gaseous state of matter. ... Lake Erie, looking southward from a high rural bluff near Leamington, Ontario Lake Erie is one of the five large freshwater Great Lakes in North America, among the worlds largest such lakes. ... Sewers transport wastewater from buildings to treatment facilities. ...

As the gas mixture flowed and mixed with air and sewer gas, the mix ignited. In the ensuing explosion, manhole covers launched skyward as jets of fire erupted from depths of the sewer lines. One manhole cover was found several miles east in the Cleveland neighborhood of Glenville. PEPCO (Electric Company) manhole cover, Washington This is a sewer manhole. ...

At first it was thought that the disaster was contained, and spectators returned home thinking that the matter was being taken care of by the fire department. At 3:00 P.M., a second above ground tank exploded, leveling the tank farm. Firefighter with an axe A firefighter, sometimes still called a fireman though women have increasingly joined firefighting units, is a person who is trained and equipped to put out fires, rescue people and in some areas provide emergency medical services. ...

However, the explosions and fires continued to occur, trapping many who had returned to what they thought was the safety of their own homes. Housewives who were at home suddenly found their homes enrobed in flame as the explosion traveled through the sewers and up through drains. The following day, Associated Press wire stories contained quotes from survivors, many of whom were at home cleaning in preparation for the coming Sabbath. Survivors said that within a split second after the explosion, their homes and clothes were on fire. Associated Press logo This article concerns the news service. ... This article concerns the Sabbath in Christianity. ...

Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Samuel Gerber estimated that the initial death toll stood at 200; however, Gerber was quoted in newspaper wire stories stating the magnitude of the fire and the intense temperatures had the power to vaporize human flesh and bone, making an exact count impossible until weeks after the disaster. The final death toll was lower than the coroner’s initial estimates. Cuyahoga County is a county located in the state of Ohio. ... A coroner is the presiding officer of a special court to investigate deaths that occur under unusual circumstances where conventional criminal proceedings are not immediately called for. ...

The toll could have been significantly higher had the event occurred after local schools had let out and working parents returned to their homes for the evening. In all over 600 people were left homeless, seventy homes, two factories and numerous cars and miles of underground infra structure destroyed.

Following the explosions and fires, East Ohio Gas worked to assure the public that the destroyed plant only held 24 hours worth of gas for the city. Many families living in the area not only lost their homes, but stocks, bonds and cash, which many kept at home. Estimates for destroyed personal and industrial property ranged between $7,000,000 and $15,000,000.

The explosion also had a long range impact on the natural gas industry. Until the disaster, above ground storage of natural gas, used as fuel for homes, office buildings and factories, was a common sight in cities across America. Following the disaster, utility companies and communities began to rethink their natural gas storage systems, and below ground storage of natural gas grew in popularity. Natural gas (commonly refered to as gas in many countries, but note that gas is also an American and Canadian shortening of gasoline) is a gaseous fossil fuel consisting primarily of methane. ...


AP News Wire Releases, October 21, 1944, and October 23, 1944.

Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Indiana University Press.

External links

[EAST OHIO GAS CO. EXPLOSION AND FIRE Encyclopedia of Cleveland History Online.]

[EAST OHIO GAS COMPANY Cleveland Memory Project images.]

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