Bridgeport, AL Natural Gas Explosion, Jan 1999

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GAS EXPLOSION ROCKS TOWN.

Bridgeport, Ala. (AP) - Glass shattered, the earth shook and three people were killed when a natural gas explosion reduced part of this city's tree-lined downtown to rubble.
The boom could be heard miles away Friday as bloodied victims staggered from the site where utility crews had been working.
"I ran outside and saw it, and the building was just gone," said Misty Flynn, who was shopping in a convenience store. "A city worker came running at me and his face was all bloody. He was saying 'It blew my eye out.'"
The smell of gas lingered for hours. Residents poured into the area to see if their relatives who had been working or shopping in the district had survived.
The three killed, including TED EUGENE CLOUD, were utility workers. At least seven others were seriously injured, and numerous others suffered cuts and bruises.
The explosion occurred around 10:15 a.m. as a Bridgeport Utilities crew was digging near a gas line, said police Officer Paul Smith. A backhoe was being used at the site.
"The lights went off and, boom," said Louise Matthews, who lives a few blocks outside downtown. "I didn't know what happened. I thought the world had ended."
A building used for storage, a vacant building and another undergoing renovation were destroyed. A physician's office, a hardware store, a taxidermy studio and a U.S. Post Office were seriously damaged.
The blast ripped tar from roofs and shattered windows several blocks away in this northeast Alabama town of 4,000.
"It felt like an earthquake," said Tommy Lands, the Stevenson police chief who heard the explosion.

Gettysburg Times Pennsylvania 1999-01-23