Monday, November 12, 2012


No, Roseholme Cottage is not anywhere near the Richmond Hills subdivision. As a matter of fact, it is about fifteen miles away as the crow flies, assuming a reasonably sober crow.

Which makes the fact that I was standing on the porch late Saturday night and heard what sounded like a single rumble of thunder from the cloudless southern sky all the more impressive.

The Reynolds Wrap yarmulke crowd is already yelling "drone strike!" which I find surprising because I was unaware that they had MQ-1s carrying JDAMs now*. Don't get me wrong, a Hellfire will ruin your day, but it doesn't knock houses off their foundation three doors down, either.

While no official announcement has been made, I'm guessing a fuel-air, or "thermobaric", munition, and probably a big one; maybe 17,000-20,000 cubic feet of spark-detonated explosive gas/air mixture...

In other words, a gas leak in the unoccupied house. Given a modern, energy-efficient, darn-near-airtight house and a good leak at the water heater, it could get downright stoichiometric in there, given enough time to for the leak to hiss away before she blows.

(I'm surprised that gas explosions and fires haven't become even more common in post-foreclosure America, where metals-scavenging from unoccupied houses is a growth industry pursued by the none-too-bright with a shaky grasp of abstract concepts like workplace safety.)

*As it turns out, MQ-9s can indeed lug a couple 500-pounders into the air. Well paint me blue and call me Smurfette... Although I'm still missing a plausible reason for one to be dropped on an empty house in suburban Indianapolis. No doubt the internets will be glad to fill that little gap in for me.


Brigid said...

I have not quite caught up on sleep and read your post as "as the COW flies", sober bovine or not, making for an interesting mental picture.


Anonymous said...

Wow, really big meth lab?

Tam said...

"It's too big to be a meth lab." -Officer H. Solo

My money's still on a houseful of natural gas.

Anonymous said...

Jim Merritt warned you about this. Tannerite reached critical mass.


mikee said...

As a person who works on foreclosed houses quite a bit, the reason copper thieves don't cause gas explosions is two-fold.

First, gas lines are usually made of iron, a pretty much worthless metal to recycle, so unlike plumbing lines the gas lines stay put in the houses.

Second, gas is cut off at the meter, outside the house.

Greg in Allston said...

"downright stoichometric", it's actually stoichiometric.

Tam said...


re: The foreclosed house thing.

I was assuming problems could arise if someone tried to pull out a water heater to get at copper piping and dislodged a gas line, but I admit I'm spitballing here.

Tam said...


Fixed, thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Omaha and when we'd hear a dull "boom", without a mushroom cloud chaser, we assumed a grain elevator had gone up. House explosions were less common.

As bad as this one is, I'm not sure anything has beat Hutchinson, KS yet. Storing natural gas in salt mines doesn't always work out the way you hope.


Ken O said...

If Roseholme Cottage went Ka-Boom, it would be because the weapons grade snark reached critical mass.

Devynsdad said...

Sure, the house that they dropped the tonnage on was vacant, but what if this was simply the Air Combat Command's version of a no-knock at the wrong address?

Within a day or two there will be some Lt. Colonel on the boob tube explaining that "Intelligence on the ground confirmed that this was the correct address. Unfortunately, due to the fog of war we blew our load on the wronge rooftop."

Angus McThag said...

It may or may not have been caused by the crash of a helicopter which may or may not have been painted a dark color, plausibly described as 'black'.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Shrimp said...

Sorry, all I saw was "reasonably sober crow" and immediately burst out laughing at the thought of an intoxicated crow seeking employment with the IMPD. Surely that fits in with drone strike theory somehow.

Matt G said...

Natural gas explosion is a reasonable guess, especially with witness comments about first responders going to pull out survivors while still under the fireball. Natural gas is lighter than air, and such fireballs, when released by the house, will float up. Mabye not perfectly stoichiometric, then, though.

'Course, I'm just spitballing*, too. :)

*Pulling ideas right out of my ass.

Kristophr said...

I Must Patrol Drunk now has Daisycutters?

TBeck said...

Has anyone heard from Mad Mike?

Anonymous said...

Likely gas explosion.

Lafayette, Indiana had a chain of houses go up 10 years ago.

Shootin' Buddy

Woodman said...

I told my daughters it was only what you could expect when they had a White Castle eat off followed by a chili cook off and the same guy won both. Several hours later while drinking PBR with his best friend in the garage his last words we're heard to be "Hey, watch me light this fart"

Youngest believed it, but her mother squelched it pretty quick. Same thing she did with Land Sharks and the people who live in traffic lights.

leBolide said...

"That's what we suspect as the main cause of this. Obviously, everyone thinks that. They're all talking that way," Riggs said.

If it really was a gas explosion, why would they go to such great lengths to emphasize that it obviously was a gas explosion?

Obviously a cover-up!

Chris said...

Your comment about Smurfette reminded me of a young woman I saw at CONstellation (1983 WorldCon in Baltimore) who was painted blue as (IIRC) an "alien slave girl". Sat next to me at a round-table discussion with Larry Niven, the downside of which is that I remember damn-all about what Niven said.

Lergnom said...

Here in the City of Brotherly Love, AKA Philadelphia, they are known as 'dynamic entry devices'.

Cormac said...

Not like it would be the first time bombs were dropped on the wrong target...,_Oklahoma

But those were dummies...

Farm.Dad said...

From some of the stories on your blog it could well be nothing more than the local popos' still cooked off .

Eric said...

My theory: the explosion was caused by ammonia and dust in the air from abandoned cat litterboxes.

JohninMd.(help!) said...

Ahhh, Philadelpha, the only police dept. I know of that thinks of a 20lb. satchel charge of C-4 as a "concussion bomb".At least when deployed via helicopter. :-D.

Anonymous said...

I had a Philly Air Force t-shirt at one time.


Ygolonac said...

A number o f years back, I was heading out to the car and the ground kind of surged; thought I heard a boom or rumble, and figured that since I didn't see any debris or smoke, it was probably someone's basement meth lab.

Couple days later, I find out it was an earthquake...

"Meth lab" is always a suspicion here - when you have folks going to the county luckup for visits - and driving their mobile cookery.

Joel said...

Probably just some HSLD Operators doing real-world pistol training. Check YouTube under "360 degrees" or something, I'm sure it's in there.

Anonymous said...

Here in Minnesnowta it's code to have the last 5 feet or so of the gas line (usually from a carbon-steel pipe) run to the stove. It has to be a newfangled corrugated cupro-nickel thingy, which takes the place of what used to be just a coiled-up roll of copper line (I guess they had too many breakages of those).

As I noted over in Roberta's comments, it's been fairly common for somebody to steal that line, and fail to crimp the end (or shut off the valve) and deliberately light up the house to cover their tracks.

Old NFO said...

"Sober crow"... LOL snorting coffee HURTS! And I've gotta wipe off the screen (again), but at least coffee is a good cleaner, right??? And glad it wasn't y'all!

Jon said...

Thank goodness. I had to check here to see if you two were alright...

Anonymous said...

Buddy of mine went to check on a neighbor lady who complained her furnace was on the fritz. He went in through the outside basement door just when she turned on the basement light. Next thing he knew he was in the next door yard, trying to put his hair out. Blew the house off the foundation. Neighbor lady needed clean shorts but was otherwise unhurt.

Steve Skubinna said...

Why do you assume a drone? F-16s and F/A-18s carry JDAMs. Maybe DoD is trying to get ahead of sequestration by unloading some assets to local law enforcement.

A guy on the ridge I live had a huge burn pile, which he doused with gasoline. Then he found he didn't have a lighter, went into the house to look for one. Eventually he came back out, after the gasoline had been merrily evaporating, lit off the - BOOOOM!

Rattled windows all over the ridge. He survived and didn't even look much like Wile E. Coyote. To this day people still talk about the time (Redacted) set off his fuel-air bomb.

Stretch said...

"Stoichiometric or Theoretical Combustion is the ideal combustion process where fuel is burned completely."
Once again Tam expands my vocabulary.

What's the motto of the Philly PD?
Tora! Tora! Tora!

Having seen what a gas leak explosion does to an entire cul-de-sac the photos don't surprise me.

FilthyMcNasty said...

Hey Anonymous,

I've been in Omaha for the last 49 years and can't say that I remember grain elevators ever exploding with frequency.

Joseph said...

The drone was obviously launched from the facilities at Beech Grove!

Ed said...

My father tells a story from his childhood in the 1920's of an elderly woman with excessive facial hair who sometimes watched him and his siblings when both of his parents needed to be elsewhere. One evening the gas stove malfunctioned. When she went to prepare dinner for them and lit the stove with a match, there was a small explosion. When we asked him if she was alright after the explosion, his response was "Alright? Best she looked in years!"

On a serious note, about a mile from where I grew up, a two story house blew up from a gas explosion. The blast completely demolished the house from the concrete foundation upward severely damaged the adjacent houses. No one was home at the house at the time of the explosion but the neighbors were home. Seeing the small size of the pieces of debris and the large radius of the debris field was disturbing to me.

TurtleBurt said...

In other new, a dab of precious irony.

OT but it might give you the same chuckle it gave me.

Anonymous said...

It happened in Torrance:

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) - A total of 115 homes and apartments were
damaged when a home tented for termite fumigation filled with
natural gas exploded, showering the neighborhood with debris, fire
officials said.
Damage from the blast early Tuesday ranged from broken windows
to collapsed ceilings, said Tad Friedman, a spokesman for the
Torrance Fire Department. The cost of the damage had not been
Despite the force of the explosion, only 10 people had minor
"I felt the blast at my home two miles away," Friedman said.
"I knew it would be miraculous if there were no fatalities."
A witness told fire investigators on Wednesday that the blast
sent a bright orange, mushroom-shaped fireball into the sky and was
followed by several more explosive flashes with a greenish tint.
Debris was found as far as 100 yards away.
The City Council declare a state of emergency for the beachside
community and set aside $85,000 for cleanup. Torrance is about 20
miles south of Los Angeles.
One of the damaged homes belonged to John Williams, who watched
Wednesday as a steady stream of engineers, utility workers and
insurance adjusters made their way through his home across the
street from the scene of the explosion.
The blast shattered many of the windows in the home Williams
shares with his wife and two adult sons. It also blew off the front
door and brought the ceiling of one bedroom crashing down.
"We've all been outside today wandering up and down the road,"
he said. "It's amazing the way people are taking it. It's like,
OK, we had a problem, let's go fix it. We're all lucky that nobody
was really seriously hurt."
An initial inspection indicated that Williams' home had no
serious structural damage. However, it will be several days before
his family can move back in because the utilities were knocked out
and must be repaired.
Along with many of his neighbors, Williams and his family are
staying at a local motel.
Meanwhile, investigators with the Fire Department and The Gas
Co. sought to determine how the home filled with gas. An official
with The Gas Co. said it appeared there was a crack in a pipe that
fed natural gas into the home. But it was unclear how or when the
crack occurred.
"We were at the home two days prior and there was no evidence
of a crack or any indication to the meter reader that there was a
problem," said Peter Hidalgo, a spokesman for The Gas Co.
Friedman said the gas may have been ignited by fans used during
the fumigation or by other electrical devices. The chemical used
for the fumigation was sulfuryl fluoride, which is commonly known
as Vikane and is not flammable, he said.
A total of 33 homes were damaged in Torrance, including the one
that was destroyed. Another 82 homes and apartments were damaged in
nearby Redondo Beach.
The owners of the home where the blast occurred, identified
through property records as Robert and Helen Mimura, were not there
at the time and could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The home was being fumigated by El Redondo Termite Control of
Gardena. Leo Grizzaffi, an attorney for El Redondo, has said
company officials were trying to determine what had happened.
He said the work at the home was being done by a subcontractor,
Network Fumigation and Exterminating Co. Inc. of Anaheim. A call
placed to Network was answered by someone who said the firm had no

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press

Ulises from CA

Mossyrock said...

Is it just me, or, when readding this, did you hear Marvin the Martian saying, "Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom!"

joe said...

Mossy: Well, I didn't, until you mentioned him...

Joe in Reno said...

Lonnnggg time ago (think Nixon), I had an after work gig helping shovel snow off vacation home roofs at Tahoe. Heavy winter for lake level Tahoe, 5-6' of wet heavy snow on the roofs. One evening we're going at it, there was a huge "WHUMPFF" and the roof just sort of fell out from under us. The walls had blown outward, the roof fell and the pink blown in fiberglass insulation drifted down for what seemed hours. Luckily the snow dampened the upward effect of explosion and our fall,and no one was hurt. We quite literally walked off the roof onto the ground. Homes in the area at that time, were heated either by oil or propane in above ground tanks and with some exposed exterior plumbing. Propane is heavier than air and "puddles in low areas.If you have a small outside leak it usually doesn't matter too much because it normally dissipates in the open air. In this case the snow acted like a lid and it flowed through the pipe penetration into the crawl space under the home. It built up until it hit an ignition source & lit off. A bunch of houses blew up that year and the building code was changed to require the house connection to have a snow load proof cover over it.

ScribblersDad said...

Silly girl.There was obviously a Terrorist Enemy of the State rumored to be in residence, which is pretty much all it takes to get some USGI ordinance shoved down one's chimney.

Note that the Official Indy Gas Utility says "Nope! Not us! Really!"

See? QED terrorists.

Glad you were 15 crowmiles (cowmiles?) away. We'd hate to lose you.

-Scribbler's Dad

MSgt B said...


Tremaine said...

We had a fire department here in Parker's Prairie MN that did that once. Poor fireman flipped a light switch and was left standing in a pile of rubble where the station used to be! Blew the brick structure clean to steel girders and it's foundation.

Crucis said...

Tam, I have difficulty imagining you as Smurfette.

Opinionated Grump (Rich in NC) said...

lets see,now... crows are tatical black... IMPD has been alleged to have a bit of a bottle tipping issue whilst on duty...
'reasonably sober crow flies'kinda fits the meme, no?

Geodkyt said...

Residents of one of the posher neighborhoods in Williamsburg used (in the 90's, anyway -- no idea these days) complain about the reular (mostly weekends) explosions coming from the direction of the nearby "naval base" (Camp Peary)*. Always got told, "Exploding transformers. Really."

* AKA "The Farm" to fans of spy novels.

Justthisguy said...

Heh! She said "stoichiometric."

I mind the time a near neighbor got blown out of his apartment by a gas explosion, and the guy from Atlanta Gas Light said that the fella was lucky it was a rich explosion; he got kinda scorched, but was otherwise just slightly bruised.

Hmm. I must try that fuel-air trick with the flour.

Justthisguy said...

I saw what you did there, TBeck. No, I would most definitely not let Mr. (or Sergeant) Williamson work on my HVAC systems, unless I were quite certain I was on his good side.

I mean, I don't want no phosgene coming out of the A/C ducts into my bedroom.

Josh K. said...

So, Tam it wasn't the govt. try to take you out for shooting down one of their drones earlier this year.

Good to know?