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Baltimore Train Derailment
May 29, 2013 7:30 AM   Subscribe

A train derailed after hitting a truck near Baltimore yesterday. TV news / Raw helicopter footage and citizens on the scene. (NSFW Audio and explosion is about a minute or so in)
posted by josher71 (43 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, this video with the explosion at around 1:15.
posted by smackfu at 7:37 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks Smackfu. I was looking for that one and couldn't find it.
posted by josher71 at 7:39 AM on May 29, 2013


What was the train carrying which exploded like that? LPG?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:48 AM on May 29, 2013


Whenever I see news about a train derailment in America, I automatically think "Well good thing there weren't any passengers onboard."
posted by three blind mice at 7:51 AM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's been one disaster after another in the U.S. lately.
posted by orange swan at 7:59 AM on May 29, 2013


Is this not just newsfilter about one train in one city?
posted by infini at 8:00 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, it was fun taking the MARC train last night, surrounded by commuters reading about this on their iPads....

I think our train driver had the horn on for the entire trip. Can't say I blame him.

Amazing to see that nobody was killed, and that the only injury that occurred was to the guy in the truck that got hit by the train which then exploded (think about that sentence for a second).

This is no huge miracle -- for all the ways that the US is ass-backwards about rail policy, we take safety very seriously. It's just a shame that we've still got so many grade crossings, and still ship hazardous materials through major metropolitan areas. We spend a ton of money on small safety improvements -- the FRA has a formula, where freight carriers are legally obligated to make any safety improvements that can be shown to prevent X deaths per year and cost less than $Y (I forget the exact numbers, and Google's failing me).

However, there's sadly not enough money around to make big capital improvements (like a freight rail bypass around Baltimore and DC). There was a similar incident in Baltimore in 2001 that caused a number of huge disruptions to the entire city.
posted by schmod at 8:01 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obligatory Baltimore Club Remix
posted by cloeburner at 8:04 AM on May 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


What was the train carrying which exploded like that? LPG?

No. If that had been an LPG BLEVE, we'd never have found the phone.

One report had sodium chlorate involved. On the Multicolored Diamond of Doom, NaClO3 rates a Yellow 3, which is "Capable of detonation or explosive decomposition but requires a strong initiating source, must be heated under confinement before initiation, reacts explosively with water, or will detonate if severely shocked" Well, heated under confiment looks very probably here, esp. if the stuff was in 55 gallon drums.

Other reports have terephthalic acid and fluoroacetic acid involved, neither of which are known as particularly explosive compounds. But, of course, this was a train, different cars could have different things in them. Terephthalic acid is used in military smoke grenades, but this smoke didn't look like that.
posted by eriko at 8:05 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this not just newsfilter about one train in one city?

Did you watch the eyewitness videos that Smackfu and I posted?
posted by josher71 at 8:06 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow. The people who took those two amateur videos were side-by-side when the explosion hit.
posted by aw_yiss at 8:12 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


TIL People in Baltimore say "Fuck" a lot. Like, a LOT.
posted by SPUTNIK at 8:14 AM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Terephthalic acid is usually shipped as a solid and would not explode like that under almost any conditions. It has a reasonably high flash point, and would be tough to burn in a fire like that. As eriko says, it mostly burns slowly with a lot of smoke.

Fluoroacetic acid is fairly nasty stuff, and could, in principle, BLEVE. It has a boiling point of about 165 C. It depends on how much was there.

That could also have been a fuel BLEVE, from either the train or the truck. I don't know enough about the site and the fire geometry to know if that's a reasonable guess or not.

That size of explosion didn't seem to be of a huge amount of product. Fuel or a single tank car could have been the cause.

A propane tank car would have produced a much bigger shock radius, on the orders of a quarter mile. The Sunrise propane explosion in Toronto a few years ago shatter storefront windows a kilometer (more than half a mile) from the site.
posted by bonehead at 8:16 AM on May 29, 2013


Whenever I see news about a train derailment in America, I automatically think "Well good thing there weren't any passengers onboard."

Well, except when there are. Like a week ago.
posted by hoyland at 8:17 AM on May 29, 2013


Actually, in some long neglected areas of the city, you can still find blue bus stop benches emblazoned with "Baltimore, the city that says 'Fuck' a lot. Like, a LOT! -- Mayor William Donald Schaefer."
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:20 AM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


TIL People in Baltimore say "Fuck" a lot. Like, a LOT.

If you'd watched The Wire [NSFW obvs], you would have learned that a long time ago.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:21 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't express how much I LOVE the fact that if you watch the video in Smackfu's link, you hear someone hit their car's horn three times several seconds after the explosion goes off. And then if you watch the last video in Josher71's original post, you get to be inside the car that was honking said horn. Don't know why that tickles me so, but it does. (I very much enjoy amateur video coverage of spectacular events.)
posted by Mothlight at 8:24 AM on May 29, 2013 [16 favorites]


The kid in the back seat is very quiet. Just chilling while pop and friend investigate inferno.
posted by sio42 at 8:25 AM on May 29, 2013


TIL People in Baltimore say "Fuck" a lot. Like, a LOT.

If you are that close to an explosion like that and you say anything OTHER than "fuck," I would like to respectfully suggest to you that your mama didn't raise you right.
posted by The Bellman at 8:30 AM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


It must be telling how close I am to baltimore or how much i say fuck because i didn't think people in either of those videos said fuck a lot.
posted by sio42 at 8:31 AM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


As someone who lives in Baltimore, I can say that the patois and various accents around here are pretty much the best. There are times when I can hardly understand people with thick Bawlmer accents (especially from Dundalk or Essex, or from the inner city a la Snoop from the Wire), but there's something poetic about the use of words like torching to describe something on fire.
posted by ghostpony at 8:36 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was going to say that the one video with the people in the car is the best representation of that particular accent I've ever heard recorded.
posted by josher71 at 8:40 AM on May 29, 2013


Flagged as derail.
posted by svenx at 8:41 AM on May 29, 2013 [32 favorites]


I very much enjoy amateur video coverage of spectacular events.)

Perhaps the FPP framing didn't make this aspect as clear to me.
posted by infini at 8:43 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


And for those who don't know what I'm talking about this wikipedia entry on Baltimorese is really thorough. One of the most noticeable distinctions is the shift of the "oh" sound to something closer to "you". It's a dead giveaway.

Also being called hon by any woman over forty.
posted by ghostpony at 8:49 AM on May 29, 2013


Two grown men with a toddler in the car, and they drive TOWARD a huge fire spewing black smoke. I can't shake my head as hard as this stupidity deserves, it would pop right off.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:03 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


And rather than having good footage he could probably sell to a TV station he took crap vertical video. When will people learn?
posted by cjorgensen at 9:06 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


> It's been one disaster after another in the U.S. lately.

Yes, in a country of some 313 million people things go wrong from time to time.
posted by sudasana at 9:06 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


TIL People in Baltimore say "Fuck" a lot. Like, a LOT.

I spent a month as the informal foreman on a building project with my brother, who'd been living in Chicago and then South Bend for fifteen years before returning to the joyous microscopic world of Maryland, and he informs me I cuss an awful lot.

It tends to be a constant mumbling stream of "fuck" and "goddammit" and yes, I can see that it's mostly unnecessary, but it just seems like best practices for obscenity in reducing the risk that something fuckworthy or goddamnable might occur without the appropriate accompanying verbal atrocity.

When big bad flaming crazy things happen, however, I go all Hardy Boys and say "oh my" and "gosh" an awful lot, but then I'm from Scaggsville, not Baltimore, so maybe it's the latitude.
posted by sonascope at 9:16 AM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


You know, if there is ever a fire at a fertilizer plant, or a fire following a tank car derailment, I sure as *fuck* hope that I run in the opposite direction and take shelter asap instead of whipping out my smartphone and taking video.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 AM on May 29, 2013


I don't think there's all too many fucks in those videos.

I saw friends posting on Facebook about a giant ominous cloud visible over the harbor. I'm glad that it was, apparently, an accident and that no one was fatally injured.

I mean, fuck.
posted by codacorolla at 9:29 AM on May 29, 2013


"Hey look, a chemical fire! Let's get closer to it!"
posted by dirigibleman at 10:30 AM on May 29, 2013


hoyland: "Well, except when there are. Like a week ago."

That accident was a derailment and partial head-on collision at ~70mph that caused 5 serious injuries and no deaths. While this still makes for a very serious accident, the number of injured/dead in the accident is nothing short of a modern marvel.

The two trains in the collision were brand-new, and equipped with modern safety features (we only very recently figured out how to effectively build crumple zones into trains). Without these safety features, the death toll from that accident could have easily reached into the hundreds.

Also, we've got quite a bit of evidence showing that these safety features are very, very, very effective.
posted by schmod at 1:50 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


That accident was a derailment and partial head-on collision at ~70mph that caused 5 serious injuries and no deaths. While this still makes for a very serious accident, the number of injured/dead in the accident is nothing short of a modern marvel.

The point was it was a derailment of a passenger train, in response to a snarking comment about the lack of passenger rail. It just seemed particularly inane given that a passenger train had just derailed.
posted by hoyland at 2:20 PM on May 29, 2013


"Hey look, a chemical fire! Let's get closer to it!"

Some people haven't heard of the rule of thumb for chemical fires and hazmat incidents generally: you hold your arm straight out and put your thumb on the problem. If you can still see some of the problem, back up.
posted by maniabug at 2:34 PM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


TIL that there is no "ck" in the word "fuck" in Baltimore. It's not "Look at all that fucking smoke", or even "Look at all that fuckin' smoke", but "Look at all that fu'in' smoke". Ditto with "Fu' yeah", "Fu'in' buildin' is torchin'", etc.
posted by Bugbread at 10:04 PM on May 29, 2013


> Whenever I see news about a train derailment in America, I automatically think "Well good thing there weren't any passengers onboard."

On a freight train? Wow, fancy that.
posted by desuetude at 10:05 PM on May 29, 2013


1adam12: "Two grown men with a toddler in the car, and they drive TOWARD a huge fire spewing black smoke. I can't shake my head as hard as this stupidity deserves, it would pop right off."

Ignorance, not stupidity.

I managed to go through 38 years of life without realizing the potential scale of explosions like this, until I found out via the West, Texas, explosion. It's not because I'm a drooling mouth-breather, but because I've not really been exposed to a lot of realistic depictions of explosion scales.

I'm actually a little surprised, in both this thread and the West, Texas, thread, about just how many MeFites do believe that understanding how big chemical explosions can be is just part of regular common sense, and that therefore people who don't know must therefore be stupid.
posted by Bugbread at 10:10 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I blame the media.

Actually, I do kinda "blame" the media, particularly action movies, but it's hardly their fault. It wouldn't be a fun movie with "realistic" explosions where all the heroes die horribly disfigured in a hospital five days later. It's much more fun to see actors outrun or outjump "explosions" with a bit of soot on their faces.

The suddenness of real events is stunning, literally. The speed of sound, the speed explosive gasses travel is much faster than human senses can process. The force of the air shockwave and the volume of the noise can't translate to an audience even with the best speakers---nor would you want the audience to be deaf or concussed coming out of the movie. Heroes rarely get hit by debris either.

Most of us in the public are in the position of thinking we know what an explosion looks like, how big they are and how dangerous they are, because we've all seen Die Hard, but we really, really don't know, and worse, because of our entertaining lies, don't even know than we're mostly ignorant of the dangers.

I'm not really surprised to see people driving towards the fire. This is why fire brigades have large standoff distances. A half-mile to a mile is typical for train fires. But for folks caught in the immediate area, who don't keep the Emergency Response Guidebook in their glove box (that's the common version used in both Canada and the US) or on their phone, there's really no way they could know the dangers.
posted by bonehead at 9:20 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was this explosion really comparable to the one in West? Yeah, it was impressive looking, but these people seemed pretty close and it didn't do much other than scare then.
posted by smackfu at 9:40 AM on May 30, 2013


Two surveillance videos, close ups of the collision between the train and truck, and of the derailing train and explosion, surfaced today. Amazing footage, really. Seems to me like the only reason why the truck driver survived is that he was in a very heavy truck, and the train hit the back of it, not the cab. Being able to see where the train cars separated as they derailed (in the second video) was fascinating too.
posted by postel's law at 11:26 AM on May 30, 2013


smackfu: "Was this explosion really comparable to the one in West? Yeah, it was impressive looking, but these people seemed pretty close and it didn't do much other than scare then."

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that the fires or explosions were comparable in scale. It's just that it was the first time I learned about explosion ranges, and it was another case where people filmed a fire from a distance they thought was safe and then MeFites said they were stupid (and, in the West, Texas post, child abusers) for not knowing actual safety distances.
posted by Bugbread at 4:19 PM on May 30, 2013


Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore City cop and sociologist, has some interesting comments on Bawlmerese, racism and press coverage.

What does it say about our culture (or the media) that the way some Americans speak in casual private conversation--Americans whose ancestors have been in this country and speaking English longer than my family--still can't be broadcast for public consumption?
posted by QIbHom at 8:29 AM on May 31, 2013


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