Natural Gas Explosion, Fire Rocks South Mpls.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — A natural gas line exploded into massive flames in South Minneapolis Thursday morning at the intersection of Nicollet Avenue and 60th Street. There were no reported injuries.

Explosion Details

Just before 8:30 a.m., Minneapolis Dispatch began receiving calls about a possible gas main explosion. The flames were visible from a significant distance away, including along nearby Interstate 35W.

Crews from the Minneapolis Fire Department, Minneapolis Police and other local law enforcement agencies responded to the scene.

The flames were intense enough to melt off the letters of the Cub Foods sign nearby and scorch a number of cars in the grocery store’s parking lot.

Witness Jude Croyle said, “I was driving about 30 mph, it was about 30 degrees outside, I had the windows up and a wool jacket on. I still felt the heat on my skin.”

The highway was closed as fire crews battled the flames and CenterPoint Energy sent their emergency response team to the scene.

“It wasn’t a fire that built, so it was within a moment of the blast it was enormous in size,” said Erin Hughes. “So we ran down there to see if we could help at all but the heat was pretty intense, you couldn’t get very close and as you got closer it was just unbelievable how huge the fire was.”

Fire officials evacuated the immediate area and later expanded the evacuation area until crews were able to extinguish the fire around 10:30 a.m.

After the fire was out, evacuation area was reduced to 59th Street on the north, on the south by 60th Street on the south, Blaisdell Avenue on the west, and 3rd Avenue/Clinton Avenue on the east. According to city officials, the perimeter is simply a precaution and fire officials have not detected any residual natural gas in the air.

The explosion left a large hole in the road in front of a Cub Foods supermarket near the interchange of Interstate 35W and Highway 62. That Cub Foods is now reopen to the public.

Assistant Fire Chief Cherie Penn said gas levels in the air had reached 80 parts per million but are back down to zero.

Penn said fighting a gas line fire is different than fighting a house fire.

“As long as that’s venting and burning that’s the best thing that can happen here. Sometimes if we look like we’re not doing anything in these instances, the best thing we can do is let it burn,” she said.

Heat from the fire damaged some powerlines, street lights, electrical poles and vehicles in the immediate area. Damages have yet to be determined.

“I felt the heat in my car. It was intense. I never felt heat like that before,” said Kim Sax, who drove by the fire.

Viewer Shoots Great Video Of Fireball


An apartment complex, day care and church near the scene were evacuated, and people inside the grocery store were told to leave through the back.

Nearby Windom Dual Immersion School, which is at 58th Street and Wentworth Avenue, was also evacuated to nearby Kenny School where they will stay for the rest of the day.

Kenny, Anthony and Armatage schools were put on Code Yellow Lockdown, according to the district. That means classes will continue as normal but exterior doors to the school are locked and no one may leave or enter the building without proper identification.

Bob Harris said he and his wife, Marilyn, didn’t hear an explosion. They were eating breakfast when someone from the fire department knocked on their door and told them to leave their home. They joined a crowd of people walking away from the explosion area. Harris described the evacuation as calm and orderly, with the crowd mostly curious about what was happening.

Kiara Jones said a neighbor called to tell her she had to evacuate her home about three blocks from the blast. “You could feel the heat outside my house,” Jones said. “They said the manholes might blow.”

Read Bill Hudson’s report on the evacuations.

Mom Dropping Off Child Witnessed Explosion

Gas Line

A major trunk gas line for that section of Minneapolis exploded, and state pipeline safety officials are on the scene, according to Rebecca Virden, a spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy.

The company says the explosion happened in a 20-inch steel line that was installed in 1994. No one lost power, except for those who asked for the gas to be shut off. This is a type of leak is rare, according to the company.

Minneapolis 911 did not receive any calls about a gas leak in the area prior to the fire. CenterPoint Energy is investigating to determine the cause of ignition.

Just over a year ago, another natural gas explosion destroyed a St. Paul home, prompting a lawsuit and forcing Xcel Energy Co. — the Twin Cities’ other major gas provider — to start a sweeping process to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Interstate Concerns

Concerns that the extreme heat may have damaged a nearby overpass on the Interstate 35W forced the Minnesota Department of Transportation to temporarily close the highway in both directions, agency spokesman Todd Kramascz said. Scorch marks were clearly visible on the road.

Cub Foods released store surveillance video the moment the gas line ruptured at 8:36 a.m. A car passed by the spot only seconds before a plume of black smoke erupted from the ground and turned into a ball of orange fire.

The explosion caused a traffic jam for miles when the State Patrol shut down portions of I-35W and side streets.

“It took me a half hour to get around the block,” said Sax.

Both directions of I-35W in Minneapolis were reopened by noon. Highway 62, from Portland Avenue to Xerxes Avenue, also was briefly closed to traffic. The 60th Street ramp remains closed. Also, Nicollet Avenue South is closed to traffic from 59th Street East to 61st Street East.

Fire Dept: Huge Flames, But No Injuries In Fire

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Bonny Folkestad

    Sitting @ MSP huge flames observed. People are glued to the windows @ food court. The height. And random fire of flames has created a hush.

    • Inquiring Mind

      When you assume, you make an “ass” of “u” and “me.”
      Tell us what are you supposed to be doing?

    • Mrak

      Some people work second shift, moro

  • Gail

    The flame is so big, I am at work downtown Mpls on the 25th floor of my building and can see the flame vividly.

  • Valerie

    no live video?

  • Steve

    Drove by it shortly after it exploded, driving on 35W north and could feel the heat through my car windows, and I was 2 blocks from the source!

  • Retired

    I can see the flames in Eagan off Hwy13 Huge flames visible from across the Minnesota river. When i first saw it this morning I thought it might be the runway at the airport but never imagined I could see that far away.

  • John Farrell

    I drove past on 35W right after it happened, could feel the heat from the freeway.

    • kristen Witte

      I think it is BOb & Steve’s gas station at about 60th and Nicollet… scary – not far from our neighborhood.

      • Alexa

        Not Bobby & Steves – drove past that about 20 minutes ago while trying to get on 62 from Diamond Lake. It’s a a block or two south of there. You may rest east

      • Michelle

        It’s right on 60th in front of Cub Foods.

      • Aurora

        You’re both wrong- it’s north of cub on 58th and Nicollet.

      • fyle


        Do you work for FOX “News”?

  • Amanda

    I just drove by that on my way into work. Talk about scary. People were STOPPING on 35W. The heat was so strong and the flames were wild…I was certain cars would ignite. That was incredible and frightening!

  • Elisabeth

    We can see the flames from our office in Eagan.

  • Lauren

    I am in Mendota Heights and could see it!

  • Cheri

    The explosion and ball of flame happened just as I was exiting off 62 to head north on 35W. The instant height (maybe 5 stories or more) and persistence of the flames made it difficult to continue my drive. I could still see the flames when I reached downtown Mpls. Shook me up.

  • Kathy

    Us too! We are in the IDS Center Tower in downtown Minneapolis and everyone was gathering around. You know it’s a large fire if we can see it from here! Hope and pray everyone is okay and that they can get it contained soon!

  • Brenda

    We had a brown out in our electricity about a half hour ago. Must have been related. I live on Diamond Lake Rd and we can’t see anything, but emergency vehicles have been steadily blaring by for the past half hour.

  • karla

    i live in burnsville and came down Nicollet and burnsville pkwy and yiu can see the flames coming above the tree line through the fog. i just wanted to share how dar out you xan see it. thanks and good job.

  • Denise

    Sitting at work on the 12th floor in downtown Minneapolis, and i can see the shooting flames. Scary. Sending my prayers, hoping no one was hurt

  • todd

    I”m in winston salem, NC and can see it, on the MN traffic cams. hope no one got hurt.

  • CZ

    I am in Mendota Heights/Eagan at 494 and Pilot Knob. I can see the flames from here, look to be up to 100 feet tall and almost a half block wide at times!

  • A spartan

    We can see it from RHS

  • Nate

    I’m across the street. It’s either Cub Foods or their parking lot. Gas line.

  • Ms Calvit

    im in schoooool and i saw it happen,…..freaky


  • Ann

    Probably a little difficult to study when you see flames from the high school!!!

  • Keith Sucks

    i can it from holy angels were im not doing my school work OOOH SNAP

  • Carrie

    I can see it from 34th and American Blvd in Bloomington!!

  • Judy

    Let’s pray there are no casualties! Isnt that more important than the distance in which you can see it?

    • Wow!

      From my point of view the flames are brilliant flashing lights. I don’t see any casualties. Though I hope there are no casualties, that’s not relevant from my point of view anyway. It’s just something freakish to look at.

  • Jo

    Minneapolis 911 dispatchers and operators are doing a fantastic job !!!!!

  • Krissi

    Not from that area, but is this the same CUB that was going to be protested at? On of the other stories on WCCO mentioned protests at CUB at 5937 Nicollet Ave that was supposed to start today at 11 AM. Weird that I just read that story and then this one popped up.

    I hope no one was severely hurt!


      Yes it is, they will do anything to get a news crew in the area.

      • Dumb people suck

        Agreed!!! Like there isn’t other things more newsworthy than their stupid cause…..Can we say Japan?

    • Sara

      I thought the same thing!!

      • Sum It Up

        Perhaps THAT should be, ‘they’ will do ANYTHING to get rid of ANYTHING OR ONE that stands in THEIR way of $-PROFIT; shortly, we’ll hear these energy slimeguy-greenwashers’ excuse for this… the ‘sterilized: probable and/or unknown cause’.

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