Ohio Street grain elevators topple, explode

Cary Ashby • Dec 1, 2010 at 12:25 PM

State Street resident Linda Felter gave her son play-by-play on the telephone of when two metal grain elevators on Ohio Street buckled and exploded Tuesday afternoon.

"I was on the phone with my son in New York; he's in the Army. And I was screaming to him, 'the grain elevator just exploded. The cars and trucks are moving across the road. The corn is across the road,'" she said. "Yeah, it was pretty scary."

The force of the impact pushed a blue car south down State Street about 15 feet.

(NOTE - To view photos of the collapse, as well as the clean up, click on these ReflectorCam 2.0 galleries HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.)

Felter lives across the street from a house that was knocked off its foundation.

Michelle Rash, 24, lives at that house, 34 State St., with three other adults, three children and three dogs. She was upstairs in her bedroom when the elevators exploded.

"It felt like an earthquake literally in my bedroom," Rash said. "I came downstairs and (my daughter) was screaming."

The force of the corn knocked a truck down the street, she said.

"My car's OK hopefully," Rash added.

There was deep water in the front yard of 35 State St.

The massive mountain of corn covered about a third of Ohio Street and blocked the State Street intersection. There was running water on both sides of State Street until the League Street intersection.

At least one utility pole in front of the grain elevators was knocked down. The two cement elevators that were beside the destroyed elevators remained standing.

"And they are full of grain. 'Tis the season. The trucks have been in and out," said Mindy Soisson, who lives caddy-corner across the street from the elevators.

The pile of corn ended 30 to 40 feet from the end of Soisson's Ohio Street driveway, where two cars were parked.

Norwalk Fire Capt. Bill Knadler was asked if there were any nearby pedestrians when the elevators exploded.

"There are a couple people missing. ... We have no solid reports of anybody in the area," he said.

Norwalk Police Chief Dave Light confirmed what the fire captain said.

"I'm not going to be happy until we know for sure nobody is in there," Light said.

A witness "who saw the whole thing" said he didn't see anybody walking in the area of the elevators, he said.

The chief was asked what caused the explosion.

"The fire department is estimating dust explosions. It usually happens in more than one," Light said, explaining there usually is one explosion after another.

"A witness heard three, what sounded like explosions, which would be consistent with dust explosions," he said.

Light said dust explosions are common "in this setting, but not real common for this time of year from what I'm told." The chief said he was concerned about a third metal grain elevator south of State Street and east of Ohio Street that was buckling.

Soisson, of 100B Ohio St., was preparing for an upcoming craft show when the explosion happened.

"It sounded like a car crash," she said. "I couldn't believe it fell down."

Residents in the area lost power about 3:30 p.m.

"You could hear a big bang. You could see a flash from inside," Soisson said.

Ohio Edison, Columbia Gas and a front loader were called to the scene.

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