Bicycles and Booms

In 1977 I was a teenager in Fort Collins, Colorado.  It was a relatively small town back then; probably around 40,000 people, not including the students at Colorado State University.  I could bicycle across town to the new city library in a little over ten minutes if I pedaled like a demon and hit the traffic lights just right.  I had a “bookstore tour” that I did on most Saturday mornings.  Bicycles were freedom.

One find spring morning, bicycling into school, I saw a building explode.

It was a particularly clear and calm day, and I was headed down a hill which had a great view of downtown.  I happened to look up at exactly the right moment.  A couple miles away, quite visible in the morning air, I saw a puff of smoke and a fountain of debris.  A few seconds later there was a sharp and very bass “KaBOOM!”.  People heard it in the city of Loveland, ten or fifteen miles away.  Overnight a commercial building had filled up with natural gas, and it detonated around 7 in the morning.  Nobody was hurt, though it blew out windows for several blocks.

I found some pictures here and here and here. The explosion wiped out one of the bookstores on my route.

Also, the CSU chemistry department, whose supplies desk would happily sell chemicals to anyone without asking questions, was quietly asked by the Fort Collins Police Department not to sell nitrates to random people any more, including certain nerdy high school kids. What were they thinking? That we were impressionable and get ideas or something? /That/ horse had left the barn long ago.

Let us hear your pyro stories. 🙂

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4 Responses to Bicycles and Booms

  1. Julian F says:

    Hey Landon,
    Pyro stories? In the 80s we used to mix pool chlorine and brake fluid together in a tin and then see a massive flame roar up as the oxidation/reduction reaction kicked in.

    Then someone had the bright idea of putting the chlorine in a coke bottle, sealing the lid on and then introducing the brake fluid via a hole in the lid, using a syringe…….
    🙂

    Cheers,
    Julian F

  2. Barton says:

    Hmm. 1977 must have been the year that natural gas wanted out.

    This happened two blocks away from our house, although I think that we were out ice skating when it happened. I remember hearing the boom, then getting home to find that all the windows had been cracked on the back of our house.

    http://newspaperarchive.com/lawrence-journal-world/1977-01-24

    I’ve always thought that the Mythbusters missed something in their “Bourne Boom Blast” episode:

    http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/videos/bourne-boom-blast.htm

    I felt like Marvin the Martian — “Where’s the Kaboom? There’s supposed to be an Earth-shattering Kaboom!”

  3. Piku says:

    One day in 1996 the IRA detonated a bomb in Manchester City Centre… That made a bit of a bang.

    I was being given a lift to my friend’s house with the intention of catching the bus into Manchester to go shopping. The first we knew of it was the local radio station suddenly going off – it just went dead, no emergency broadcast, filler radio music or anything, it just turned off.

    Then we discovered we couldn’t catch a bus since they’d all stopped running, but since nobody really knew what was going on (this was 1996, the Internet didn’t exist then so there weren’t freshly uploaded YouTube videos in HD) we didn’t know why – and since the local radio station was turned off, it took a bit before the news got out.

    Gas is also tricky stuff, the local gas substation exploded one night. It used to be in a wooden shed… then it wasn’t. It’s the kind of deep *BOOM* that makes you wish your stereo was that good.

  4. Stuart in Austin says:

    July 14, 1966 I was sitting reading in an easy chair at home in Tulsa, Ok. There was a solid boom and the windows continued to rattle for some time. The Hercules powder plant in Carthage, Missouri had exploded. The distance from Tulsa to Carthage is about 130 miles.

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