MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A huge explosion jolted a St. Paul neighborhood Friday morning, sending 80-year-old John Lundahl to the hospital, and blowing out windows and walls of nearby homes.
GALLERY: Images Of House Explosion
A nearby security camera captured the explosion rip the house apart, spewing an enormous fireball. The home was leveled, and others have been evacuated.
It happened at about 8:30 a.m. at the intersection of Payne Avenue and Edgerton Street. Fire officials believe some kind of a natural gas leak caused the home to explode.
Firefighters found Lundahl near the back of the home. His family says he’s being treated for burns, scrapes and bruises at Regions Hospital.
People as far as five miles away felt the explosion.
Abdirizak Ali and his brother were unpacking boxes at their month-old store, Karibu Grocery and Deli on Payne Avenue, when they heard something explode.
“We were shaken up, all the signs and the posters up on the wall all fell down,” Ali said.
A quick check of their surveillance camera footage revealed a fireball launching the walls and roof of a home down the street into the sky at 8:32 a.m.
“At first, I thought it was a huge bomb or something like that,” Ali said.
Business owner Jeff Yarusso was driving about a block away when his van shook and he heard a boom.
“I looked straight and you could see a ball of fire,” Yarusso said. “It looked like a tornado, everything flying across the street, debris.”
People living nearby also escaped with their pets. The explosion blew a wall of out the house next door and blasted out windows for blocks.
Watch Christiane Cordero’s Walk Through The Wreckage:
“My windows started shattering and everything, and actually I was so scared I actually got out of the house,” Ali Hussein said.
Xcel Energy turned off the gas lines and confirmed the area was safe before crews began to sift through the debris to begin their investigation.
“Could have been a leak in the line somewhere,” said St. Paul Deputy Fire Chief Dave Berger. “An explosion of this magnitude, though, it’s usually pretty full of gas at that point, you know. The explosion was pretty high in the house.”
It was a terrifying morning for many families who felt the blast, but maybe none more so than a family who lived two doors down. They told WCCO-TV about what happened in the moments after the explosion.
“It felt like an earthquake, and then I was thinking, ‘This is Minnesota, we don’t have earthquakes, so what was that?’” said neighbor Starr Phillips. “It blew the glass all over me, I still have it like down my shirt, and it’s all over my scalp. We don’t really feel like it’s real. The house is destroyed.”
She raced to find her kids, and said she is grateful they are all OK.
“I was sleeping in my bed and it just felt like the roof had like fallen in,” said 15-year-old Darcy. “You could like see the room shake, and then the windows came crashing in. And then got really worried.”
In the moment, Darcy rushed to get her 3-year-old brother.
“So I ran up to get him to make sure he was OK,” Darcy said.
Windows had shattered, glass was everywhere and he was safe — escaping injury.
“My 3-year-old son was sleeping upstairs in the bedroom, and a foot away from where his head … the air conditioner in the window blew in on the bed, so it was freaky,” Phillips said. “I saw [Darcy] come out of the room I knew she was alive, and our son was up at the top of the steps, she got him, and so that was all that mattered.”
The Phillips family did have to leave their home. Three businesses, a nearby church and two homes have been condemned. A structural engineer will have to take a look before anyone can go back in.
No firefighters were injured, and the exact cause of the explosion is still under investigation. The Red Cross is helping the 11 people displaced by the explosion.