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The New London School Explosion
February 23, 2010 2:49 PM   Subscribe

One spring afternoon more than 70 years ago, an East Texas teacher turned on an electric sander. The subsequent explosion caused the New London School to lift into the air and then smash into the ground, ultimately leaving some 300 students and teachers dead in the rubble. It remains the worst school disaster in American history.

"To save gas expenses of $300 a month, plumbers, with the knowledge and approval of the school board and superintendent, had tapped a residue gas line of Parade Gasoline Company. School officials saw nothing wrong because the use of 'green' or 'wet' gas was a frequent money-saving practice for homes, schools, and churches in the oilfield. The researchers concluded that gas had escaped from a faulty connection and accumulated beneath the building. Green gas has no smell; no one knew it was accumulating beneath the building, although on other days there had been evidence of leaking gas. No school officials were found liable."

As a result of the 1937 disaster, The Texas Legislature passed a law requiring the odorization of all gas for commercial and industrial use. Many other states, followed by the federal government, passed similar statutes that same year.

An online memorial is available. The survivors still return each year to the site of the tragedy.
posted by SpringAquifer (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by chinston at 2:55 PM on February 23, 2010


Damn it.
posted by SpringAquifer at 2:58 PM on February 23, 2010


.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:28 PM on February 23, 2010


All doubles must be odorized.
posted by GuyZero at 3:32 PM on February 23, 2010


That Memorial Is Impossible To Read Because Every Single Word Is Capitalized And Everything Is Written In Huge Run On Sentences Like This.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even if it's going to get deleted; this is still going on. I am part of an organization demanding better regulations for drilling of the Barnett Shale here in FTW; it got its start because one of the many companies drilling wanted to run a huge pipeline of "green" gas through the front yards of a local neighborhood, odor free toxic gas piped right through where the kids liked to play.
posted by emjaybee at 3:48 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting. This qualifies as a natural experiment I bet. You could examine the impact of odorization of gas on various mortality measures since the explosion triggered widespread (exogenous) adoption of these safety laws.
posted by scunning at 3:49 PM on February 23, 2010


In the New Orleans area slab on grade houses tend to be built on pilings so they won't subside, with the result that the ground subsides away from the concrete foundation leaving a cavity. The gradually increasing gap between the building and underground utilities isn't good for pipes, and there have been several incidents where residential houses have gone kaboom because the gas pipe ruptured and filled the underslab void with gas.
posted by localroger at 3:51 PM on February 23, 2010


This is five years old, I think it's okay to leave it here.
posted by jessamyn at 3:51 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


That Memorial Is Impossible To Read Because Every Single Word Is Capitalized And Everything Is Written In Huge Run On Sentences Like This.

That's not a run-on sentence.
posted by jckll at 4:02 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Jesus Christ, stories like this make me want to go get my daughter out of daycare just to give her a huge hug and a kiss.
posted by gottabefunky at 4:07 PM on February 23, 2010


odor free toxic gas piped right through where the kids liked to play

But it can't be all that bad for them -- natural gas says natural, right there in its name! If anything, those kids need more natural stuff in them, maybe natural gas will do them some good.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, and my first reaction to reading this post was that this story had something to do with taxes, but I was thinking of that other school explosion out there (previously)
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:28 PM on February 23, 2010


That Memorial Is Impossible To Read Because Every Single Word Is Capitalized And Everything Is Written In Huge Run On Sentences Like This.

INSERT HEGEL JOKE HERE SOMEWHERE ELSE.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:33 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thank you, Spring.
This is an excellent and informative and indeed, interesting post.
'Previously,' be darned.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:01 PM on February 23, 2010


Excuse the self-link here, but one of the cub reporters who covered the New London explosion for UPI was none other than Walter Cronkite.
posted by jonp72 at 5:08 PM on February 23, 2010


I know an elderly gentleman who was at the scene of the explosion, helping with the cleanup afterwards. He's also a WWII combat vet, having served at Tarawa and other Pacific landings. He mentioned this explosion to me once, but choked up, and couldn't get out more than a few words about "body parts hanging from the electrical lines."
posted by Alt F4 at 5:16 PM on February 23, 2010


Interesting sidenote: this was one of Walter Cronkite's first assignments as a cub reporter.
posted by dhartung at 5:39 PM on February 23, 2010


but I was thinking of that other school explosion out there...

Fascinating. The man who blew up that school was a Mr. Kehoe, who was angry about taxation and killed his wife right before he blew up that school - and later himself.

One can't but help draw parallels with another recent suicide attack by a man disgruntled over taxes who is apparently being hailed in some quarters as a hero.

We live in a sick, sad world - and apparently have forever.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:14 PM on February 23, 2010


I've been through New London a number of times. There is a huge memorial in the middle of town, but it's not necessary. The legend of the tragedy is fresh in the minds of people in the area.
posted by Xoebe at 9:16 AM on February 24, 2010


Even if it's going to get deleted; this is still going on. I am part of an organization demanding better regulations for drilling of the Barnett Shale here in FTW; it got its start because one of the many companies drilling wanted to run a huge pipeline of "green" gas through the front yards of a local neighborhood, odor free toxic gas piped right through where the kids liked to play.

Ugh. I'm guessing that was Chesapeake? Fuck those guys. I'm not sure if XTC is really that much better drilling wise, but at least they're restoring architecture downtown.
posted by kmz at 8:16 AM on February 25, 2010


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