Residents say they are thankful that no one was injured when a natural gas pipeline exploded in rural Pettis County early Friday morning.
Nearby residents were evacuated as a precaution, authorities said. Residents within a half-mile were evacuated, but were back in their homes by mid-morning Friday.
Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co.'s 30-inch line ruptured about midnight. This is just north of Hughesville and near LaMonte off Highway D.
A company official said in a statement that the gas has been re-routed from the area so all customers have service.
Several residents said they thought a stealth bomber from nearby Whiteman Air Force Base had crashed, including Ashley Stark. She lives off McCubbin Road and a photo posted on KCTV5.com's home page showed her barn in the foreground.
"I woke up from a dead sleep. At first it sounded like a B-2 going into the field," Stark said. "Then my house started shaking and rattling. Things were falling off the walls. Glass was vibrating. It sounded like the windows were going to bust they were shaking so badly. When I looked out the window, it was like daylight. There was a red haze over the field."
The flames destroyed seven outlying buildings on a nearby farm. The buildings were filled with hay and no animals were inside them.
Stark, whose 8-year-old son was at her parents, ran outside after the explosion. She said the scene was surreal.
"You could see clear as day. It was like daylight. It was roaring and all you could hear was that sound," she said. "It was rolling fire. It just kept rolling in balls and continuously. It was huge."
She tried to call 911, the fire department and the police department but couldn't get through to the overwhelmed dispatchers. After receiving an alert to evacuate, she secured her three dogs in her home and left, hoping that no one was injured and the damage was minimal.
Cathy Schneider lives 300 feet from the edge of the explosion. She too will never forget the roaring.
"It sounded like a bomb going off. When the roaring never stopped, 'I'm like, 'That's not thunder,'" she said.
She couldn't believe what greeted her outside her home.
"I was immediately hit with the heat. I couldn't tell you how many degrees it was. It felt like it was burning the side of my face," she said.
Schneider said she knew she had to leave, but feared that she wouldn't have a home to celebrate Christmas in.
"I got the animals in the cars. We just threw them in there," she said. "They were scared to death."
Fleeing the scene was also scary.
"We were getting hit with gravel and dirt and everything that was just flying up in the air and falling down on the house and the cars," she recalled. "Somebody upstairs was watching out for us. They had to be."
Shelly Raines and her father, Kenny, also credited God.
"God never ceases to amaze me. He is with this community," Kenny Raines said. "We are God-fearing people."
He had feared it was a plane crash or worse.
"The thought goes through your mind in today's society that it's a nuclear attack. Anything could happen," he said.
Daylight showed that the explosion left a smoldering moon-like crater. It took more than two hours to extinguish the blaze.
The pipeline company and the responsible federal and state regulatory agencies will conduct an investigation into what caused the rupture.
In 2008, the pipeline ruptured in Houstonia, which is about 20 miles away from the scene of Friday's explosion. The 2008 explosion caused about $1 million in damage.
Friday's explosion was heard miles away including in Sedalia, the county seat of Pettis County and the home of the Missouri State Fair. Sedalia is about an hour east of Kansas City.
"I live about 12 miles away ... and I heard the explosion," said Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond. "I thought it was a nearby residence. When I looked out, I could see the large fireball."
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