GLOUSTER-A massive explosion Wednesday morning along an interstate natural gas transmission line in Morgan County destroyed two homes and damaged at least two other buildings, officials said.
Two people sustained minor injuries and several pets were missing after the 8:30 a.m. blast, located just outside Glouster on Taylor Road in Homer Township.
The cause of the explosion remains under investigation. Residents as far away as Lowell - up to 25 miles away -reported hearing the blast.
BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times
Cathy Sayers, of 9500 Taylor Road, Glouster, stands at the intersection to her road and Ohio 329 on Wednesday afternoon after a massive interstate natural gas line explosion chased her from her home. The explosion destroyed two homes and at least two other buildings. No one was seriously injured.
Cathy Sayers, of 9500 Taylor Road, Glouster, said she was cleaning her kitchen when she was nearly knocked to the ground by the blast.
"I thought it was the end of the world - I thought God was coming today," she said. "There was a massive explosion, the whole house rocked and part of the ceiling started to cave in. Then there was this thunderous roar ... Just an awful roar that wouldn't stop."
Sayers said she looked outside and all she could see was an orange glow.
"The next thing I saw was the vinyl siding starting to melt down over the windows," she said. "I knew I had to get out."
Sayers said she gathered up her pets, some family photos and a few personal items and ran from the home. She said she sustained some minor burns to her legs fleeing the house.
Her home was a total loss.
"The only thing left is the foundation," she said.
Taylor Road, located off Ohio 329, remained closed Wednesday afternoon as the investigation into the blast continued. Including local police and fire officials, investigators from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Ohio Fire Marshal's Office and U.S. EPA, were at the scene. The Department of Transportation regulates gas transmission lines.
The ruptured transmission line runs across the Sayers' property, about 300 feet from the home, according to Cathy Sayer's husband, John Sayers, 61. He said his family has owned the land there for generations and he believed the Houston-based Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. line was laid there in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The couple have lived on the property since 1976.
"We knew it was there but it never was really a concern," he said. "I would guess it was about a 30-inch diameter line."
Firefighters who responded to the scene reported seeing flames shooting 200 to 300 feet in the air.
Rick Phillips, a firefighter with the nearby Jacksonville Volunteer Fire Department, said within 45 minutes of the explosion gas officials were able to close the affected segment.
"There wasn't a lot we could really do before that, other than just keep people back," he said. "It was just one massive fireball and the heat was just as intense."
Once the gas line was shutoff, firefighters began working on fires affecting the homes, buildings and trees that were in the area, Phillips said.
The general area consisted mostly of wooded hillsides with a handful of modest homes spread out along the winding roads.
"The heat just spread to everything," he said.
Steve Stover, 32, who lived in a rental house adjacent to the Sayers' home, said his home was also destroyed.
Still, Stover said he considered himself lucky because his wife, Brandi, 35, was at home at the time of the explosion and escaped serious harm. Their son, Steven, 12, was at school.
"The explosion knocked her into the wall and then all she could hear was a roaring sound," he said. "She thought it was a tornado so she ducked back into our bedroom with one of our dogs ... After a few minutes, when the rumbling and shaking didn't stop, she realized it must be something else that was wrong."
Like Cathy Sayers, the woman grabbed what she could and ran from the home. She was treated and released from an area hospital for shock and smoke inhalation, Steve Stover said.
"I think she's going to be OK," he said. "She's just really shaken up right now."
One of the couple's dogs, a mix-breed named Molly, was reunited with the family shortly after 2 p.m. after it was found roaming along Ohio 339, about a mile from the home. Brandi Stover had carried their other dog away from the inferno. A few cats were still missing late Wednesday.
Steve Stover said the family, who had only lived in the home since August, had no insurance. The family was getting assistance from Red Cross officials.
"The Red Cross is going to put us in a motel for a few nights and they're helping us with some clothes and food," he said. "But I don't know what our next move is ... I guess we're going to have to try to find some place to live."
Stover said he knew the pipeline was there but he never was concerned because of it.
"It had been there forever, as far as I knew, and it was buried," he said. "I never gave it a second thought."
John Sayers said his home was insured.
Sheriff's officials in Morgan, Athens and Washington counties said they each received multiple reports from individuals who heard a blast.
Lowell resident Jerry Huck, 72, said he heard what sounded like a "sonic boom" and a rumble that continued afterward for about five minutes on Wednesday morning.
"It actually shook the house enough just to make things move just a dab," he said.
Huck wasn't sure what the source was but despite the rain this morning, he was sure it wasn't thunder.
"It just wasn't like thunder at all," he said.
Officials at the scene declined to comment about the investigation.
A message seeking comment was left with the state fire marshal's office.