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Gas Explosion Blows Up Section Of West Virginia Interstate

A fireball over Interstate 77 after a gas line ruptured in Sissonville, W. Va. on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
A fireball over Interstate 77 after a gas line ruptured in Sissonville, W. Va. on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

West Virginia road crews are repairing Interstate Highway 77, about 15 miles north of Charleston after a tremendous explosion wrecked the road. No one was killed in the blast.

Pipeline fire on I-77 in West Virginia.
Travis Long / West Virginia Dept. of Transportation
Pipeline fire on I-77 in West Virginia.

Both the north and southbound lanes are now open again to traffic, says the West Virginia Department of Transportation. So is a nearby state road. Paving crews needed to lay down asphalt over about 800 feet of highway scorched by the flames, which had crumbled from the heat. The Associated Press says guardrails were melted, the green enamel on signs was burned away and a gigantic hole blossomed in the road.

Four houses burned down and dozens of people evacuated as the flames spread. Although the exact source of the explosion isn't clear, the Charleston Daily Mail says there was a 'catastrophic failure' on a 20-foot gas line just feet from the interstate.

The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team to Charleston to try to find what caused the pipe to rupture, says WOWK-TV. The fire was so intense that it's remarkable that no one was killed, says West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. He reported no cars were on the section of road when the pipe exploded, and nobody was at home in the now-destroyed houses within the blast area.

Tomblin visited the site and reported "it was like walking on a volcano".

Highway officials called a private company to quickly resurface the road. The West Virginia Paving Company worked through the night, taking to Facebook to thank the Red Cross and a local pizza joint for food and coffee. West Virginia authorities report the pavers finished ahead of schedule. Where might they go next?

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