Home explosion had force of military bomb

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - A physics expert says Thursday's home explosion in Longview had the force of a military bomb, shattering wood and glass all over the blast radius. It's not just the home owner's facing drastic repairs. For many neighbors near the explosion site, it's hard to imagine the enormity of the blast that, so far, is thought to be caused by exploding propane bottles.

"I'm really shocked this much damage happened, yes," said Buck Fellows, a neighbor. "Well, what I'm thinking about now is [I'm] glad nobody was killed or hurt, and it's really amazing no one got hurt."

Aside from the initial damage done to the home by the blast, the shock wave actually damaged numerous homes in the area and at least one local expert says even a small bottle of propane can pack a big punch.

"A 20 pound tank which would be a standard grill tank would have as much energy as say 200 pounds of TNT," explained Ted Forringer, a professor of physics at LeTourneau University. "So, that is in fact a lot of energy."

It had a 250 foot blast radius, foundations were cracked on nearby homes, nails were coming out of plaster and entire rooms shifted. But, Forringer says there's a problem with the propane theory, it doesn't just spontaneously combust.

"Typically, it's pretty hard to make a propane tank blow up," said Forringer. "You can shoot a propane tank with tracer rounds from a rifle and it won't explode, so it really does take a lot to make one of these things blow up."

Which leaves more questions on what really happened, and homeowners to deal with their insurance agents.

"We're going to have the insurance folks come out and check our foundation and be sure it's not cracked or whatever," said Fellows.

Investigators are looking at propane bottles and a car that was in the garage as the likely elements that created the blast. What caused the ignition, though, is still being investigated.

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