Gas Explosions In Massachusetts

There have been 60 to 100 gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts. Here’s a local news outlet updating regularly. Some of the fires have been put out as I write, but check for the latest. There is no information on what went wrong. Here’s a map of the explosions and fires. Electricity is being cut off to the area to prevent more explosions.

I didn’t want to say this, but a number of other people are saying it and implying it. This many gas explosions at one time is unusual. So the question arises of a cyberattack.

A pressure surge in an old gas system could cause something like this. The question is how the surge originated. I don’t know enough about how the gas distribution system works to guess at accidental surges. The Stuxnet worm that damaged Iran’s uranium enrichment facility worked by messing with the system’s controls to speed up the centrifuges to their breaking point. The control system can do many things, including allowing the pressure to increase in a gas system.

This is just guessing right now. It’s too soon to know anything, and the authorities have said nothing about the cause. So stay frosty.

I checked in with front-pager Tom Levenson on Twitter, and he’s some distance from the explosions. We need to hear from Anne Laurie, and others in the area too.


128 replies
  1. 1
    Gravenstone says:

    Maybe it’s just my growing paranoia in the current political environment, but my first thought was possible enemy action. A nebulous suspicion if ever there was one, but clearly I’m not alone.

  2. 2
    Martin says:

    I thought Bruce Willis and Justin Long were excellent in this film. 3 ½ stars.

  3. 3
  4. 4
    Schlemazel says:

    We have known for 20 years that the SCADA infrastructure is vulnerable and we know what needed to be done to protect it. Just last year a few hundred controllers on the electrical grid were found to have default login credentials and available to the world via the Internet.

    Fuck the utility companies for being too stupid, too greedy and too short sighted to prepare for the inevitable. Fuck the government for not demanding they do it. Fuck voters who want less regulation because business will take care of it.

  5. 5
    Mary G says:

    Thread including links to local groups to contribute to:

    I grew up in Andover next to Lawrence. Super important to understand that Lawrence is the poorest community in New England with a huge immigrant population. Don't give $$ to the Red Cross. Give it to local community groups there who will be supporting residents for the long haul— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) September 13, 2018

  6. 6
    Anne Laurie says:

    I’m twenty miles away from there, but of course the local news channels are showing nothing but the disaster. However, at this moment, I’d bet a store-bought cookie it was nothing more nefarious than infrastructure neglect and private utility company corner-cutting.

    What’s being said on those news reports blames a ‘pressure surge’ within a patchwork of gas lines installed by multiple companies across many years. Right now, it’s a question of C.R.E.A.M., not ISIS (or even Stormwatch).

  7. 7
    Debbie(Aussie) says:

    Hope all Massachusetts juicers are ok! Also my thoughts go out to all jackals in the path of Florence. Stay safe.

  8. 8

    I am nowhere near the explosions and there are no gas lines here.

  9. 9
    rikyrah says:

    Da phuq?
    Did they evacuate Phillips Andover boarding school?

  10. 10
    MobiusKlein says:

    Don’t rule out normal user error.
    There was a massive gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, CA a number of years ago.
    Or a cascading issue, where the auto shutoff broke the next valve.

  11. 11
    Another Scott says:

    @Mary G: J was just making the same point about that being a very poor area. It seems more likely to be a “lack of maintenance, lack of oversight, cost-cutting, etc.” problem than enemy action, to me.

    E.g. WaPo from 1998:

    In 1997, there were 108 incidents involving natural gas pipelines nationwide, which resulted in 10 fatalities and 83 injuries, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. A spokeswoman for the American Gas Association said third-party damage — such as that done by construction crews — accounts for two-thirds of pipeline incidents. Other causes include corrosion and defects in construction materials.

    In the Washington area, a natural gas explosion demolished one town house and severely damaged two others in Old Town Alexandria in 1996. No one was home, and no injuries were reported. Washington Gas officials took responsibility for the accident, saying it resulted from mistakes made while replacing a gas main.

    I hope they figure out what the problems was quickly. If it actually was Vlad, well, … Grr…



  12. 12
    The Dangerman says:

    This many gas explosions at one time is unusual.

    Depends. PG&E on the scene?

  13. 13
    Anne Laurie says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I’ll bet some of your neighbors have propane tanks, though!

    To second Mary G’s comment: Lawrence is the same poor, immigrant-intensive city it was when the ‘Bread & Roses’ strike took place (although the languages & skin colors of those immigrants have changed). There have been at least 39 homes destroyed, but many of those were multi-family dwellings. Compounding the immediate problem, at least one of the local electric companies cut off power to the affected areas, even those homes that *don’t* have natural gas lines, for fear of sparks causing further damage.

    The first explosions seem to have happened shortly after 5pm EDT, when the ever-congested Rtes. 93, 95, and 495 were at their rush-hour worst. Most of the first local on-site reports came from Andover & even Wilmington, which are *not* low-income communities, but are much easier for news media trucks to access.

  14. 14
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    I’m with you guys. A massive fuckup by the gas company is all too plausible.

  15. 15
    JPL says:

    Columbia Gas was working today to upgrade the system in Lawrence and Andover, so it is possible that it was human error.

  16. 16
    bbleh says:

    Concur with above comments about the importance of hardening utility systems against hacking, but as the old saying goes, when you hear hooves, think horses not zebras. There are many possible reasons for a pressure surge, most of them more pedestrian — and more likely — than hacking. It’s like the Trump administration: don’t assume Byzantine conniving if stupid explains the same observations.

  17. 17

    @Anne Laurie: I am thinking of getting one myself.

  18. 18

    @Anne Laurie: Yes. Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence. And I am seeing that these are poorer suburbs. So maintenance probably has been sketchier than in other places, gas lines older.

  19. 19
    p.a. says:

    I worked with a guy who led a wildcat strike in the early ’80’s because a local gas co’s. physical plant was in such bad shape here in part of RI (2 gas utilities at the time) that the leaks were getting into our telco ducts and manholes and endangering us as well as the gas workers and the public. That got the problem resolved, since the gas co. guys were too worried about losing their jobs to really push the issue.

  20. 20
    Mary G says:

    @Anne Laurie: Glad you and the Spousal Unit and the furry family members are OK, AL.
    Infrastructure was my first guess, too

  21. 21
    JGabriel says:

    Cheryl Rofer @ Top:

    I didn’t want to say this, but a number of other people are saying it and implying it. This many gas explosions at one time is unusual. So the question arises of a cyberattack.

    I’m wondering if it’s Russia practicing for Election Day.

  22. 22
    MagdaInBlack says:

    One of my friends (since kindergarten) lives in Lowell, her grandson and his mother live, as it turns out, IN that neighborhood. They are ok and now at Grammas house.

  23. 23

    @MagdaInBlack: where in Lowell? I grew up on Christian Hill.

    I went to high school in Lawrence.

    The key thing to note is that Lawrence is dirt poor but Andover and North Andover are professional middle to upper middle class tech suburbs.

  24. 24
    Kraux Pas says:

    @Mary G:

    I grew up in Andover next to Lawrence. Super important to understand that Lawrence is the poorest community in New England with a huge immigrant population. Don’t give $$ to the Red Cross. Give it to local community groups there who will be supporting residents for the long haul— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) September 13, 2018

    I don’t know if the Red Cross thing is good advice, but services in the area are struggling. As part of my job, I used to help arrange transportation for senior citizens in the area and other services like meals on wheels. The free bus for seniors was a casualty of budget cuts. I recall somewhere I was having trouble having meals delivered too; not sure, but that may also have been Lawrence.

  25. 25
    Immanentize says:

    Meanwhile, NationalGrid Gas employees are locked out in the Boston service area. And gas line safety has been a big issue in the labor dispute. Just a data point

  26. 26
    TenguPhule says:


    Maybe it’s just my growing paranoia in the current political environment, but my first thought was possible enemy action.

    My first reaction was “Foreign or Domestic”.

  27. 27
    MagdaInBlack says:

    @David Anderson:
    Been several years since Ive been out there, so Im not as familiar with the area as I’d like to be.
    Canton Street

  28. 28
    Anne Laurie says:

    Latest local update:

    The explosions appear to be concentrated in a one-mile square area south of the Merrimack River. Lawrence Mayor Dan River asked all residents of South Lawrence to evacuate as National Grid shuts off the power….

    Columbia Gas was scheduled to do work Thursday on Market Street in Lawrence, where a home is on fire.

    “Columbia Gas crews are currently responding to reports of multiple fires in Lawrence,” Columbia Gas said in a statement issued at 9:20 p.m. “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today’s incident.”…

    So, still looking like a genuine “accident” — insofar as sloppy maintenance of aging infrastructure is considered accidental. Not multiple points of attack, just (it would seem) one cascading failure leading to multiple explosions / fires / evacuations of ‘tens of thousands’ living in a congested, built-up area.

  29. 29
    TenguPhule says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    I’d bet a store-bought cookie it was nothing more nefarious than infrastructure neglect and private utility company corner-cutting.

    10 or 20, maybe.

    60-70? That’s Minnasota level neglect.

  30. 30
    JWL says:

    “I don’t know enough about how the gas distribution system works to guess at accidental surges”.

    Neither did I. That is, until PG&E blew up an entire neighborhood in San Bruno, Ca. about ten years ago (SFO lays borders the city of San Bruno along San Francisco bay). As I recall, it boiled down to some stuck gauges during a scheduled test that messed with the pressure during a test. It can be googled, of course.

  31. 31
    MagdaInBlack says:

    @David Anderson:
    Eta: she married one of the local boys she met in the Air Force 💞

  32. 32
    catclub says:

    @JPL: Yes, NPR reported that just today they had sent out letters to their customers. So, goofed up maintainance operations are what I would guess.

  33. 33
    Anne Laurie says:

    @David Anderson:

    The key thing to note is that Lawrence is dirt poor but Andover and North Andover are professional middle to upper middle class tech suburbs.

    Yeah, Lawrence — and Lowell, which is outside Columbia Gas’s trouble zone — are poor cities with lots of big empty industrial spaces. In the last decade or so, they’ve become ‘cradle cities’ for new tech companies. The employees of those companies, once their kids are school-age, move out to Andover / North Andover.

    Gonna be interesting, in the Chinese-proverb sense, once the root cause of today’s explosions is pinpointed. A hundred-plus years of ‘good enough for the next few years’ pipeline upgrades, with half the responsible companies long since gone…

  34. 34
    Tenar Arha says:

    I’m nowhere nearby. Also, Lawrence is one of the poorest local communities in the Merrimack Valley. On Twitter these local orgs were recommended. (They all are listed under Charity Navigator even if they mostly don’t have enough funds to be rated, except for Lazarus House).

    Here’s some:
    Bread And Roses Lawrence:
    Lazarus House shelter:
    Elevated Thought
    Greater Lawrence Community Action Council:

  35. 35
    Adam L Silverman says:


    I am nowhere near the explosions and there are no gas lines here.

    That’s what they want you to think.

  36. 36
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Immanentize: Different gas company where the explosions were.

  37. 37
    different-church-lady says:

    I find it odd that so many of us (myself included) have these pipe coming into our houses that can turn them into bombs and we all just kind of take it for granted.

  38. 38
    Immanentize says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Exactly. Gas lines are everywhere. Gas furnaces, gas stoves and ovens. and, of course. major natural gas pipelines

  39. 39
  40. 40
    Immanentize says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I know, but if you look at Columbia Gas versus national grid service areas national grid dwarfs and surrounds Columbia. Columbia is the small yellow bit in north eastern MA surrounded by purple national grid. They are all the same system, just different billing sources and — overlapping — maintenance.

  41. 41
    The Pale Scot says:

    Add: If it is hacking this different than what i posted, the links are to attempts at economic warfare, this would be terrorism.

  42. 42
    FlyingToaster says:

    I have a bit of experience with this.

    Gas lines are being monitored by citizens groups and at one point, Watertown had in the neighborhood of 900 (yes, with two zeroes) measurable leaks. National Grid has been systematically replacing all of the pipes in town.

    So, three years ago, National Grid replaced the gas lines on our street.

    The city then repaved the upper half of our street (ran outta money). Last fall they finally repaved the lower half (vast improvement).

    National Grid was careful. You got flyered, you got stickered, and you had a NG employee and a Watertown PD officer come to your door and tell you WE ARE TURNING OFF THE GAS FOR THE DAY. WE ARE HERE TO TURN OFF YOUR PILOT LIGHTS (don’t have any, just igniters). WE WILL COME BACK AND TURN IT ON, DON’T MESS WITH IT. And then they came back and turned it on, and some NG guy would be at my neighbor’s house at 7 when they got home to re-light the pilots.

    They tested each section, then each block, and you’ll note, nothing exploded. And when the municpal pavers came through, nothing went wrong.

    Lawrence, Andover and North Andover get their natural gas from Columbia; not all homes have gas, but those that do, that’s who runs those pipes. National Grid (my gas supplier) supplies the electricity in all 3 towns.

    Columbia has been replacing pipes in Lawrence for the past several weeks. Lawrence is poor as Job’s turkey.

    The most likely cause is a maintenance failure, due to a faulty re-connection with one of the new pipes. However, that should affect one neighborhood (South Lawrence), which indeed saw the first round of explosions. Maybe 20 homes in one neighborhood. Not 70 in 3 municipalities.

    The suspicious factor is the widespread nature of the overpressure — people were smelling gas as early as 4:15 and reporting it, in all 3 communities. The explosions and fires started at 5, as people got home and flicked switches.

    This could be the usual crap maintenance, but including not-poor Andover and North Andover makes it look like more than one thing went wrong.

  43. 43
    Adam L Silverman says:

    My assessment on this is the same it is on almost any breaking news story: the information is going to fluctuate widely for 24 to 72 hours before the investigators have a handle on what actually happened. Is it possible that this was a Russian cyberwarfare attack? Yes. Was it? No one actually knows, which is why the FBI is involved. And the FBI will, of course, be assisted by the other appropriate 3 letter agencies. The most likely explanation is that this is old infrastructure and it either gave out or there was a human failure that combined with the aging infrastructure led to this tragedy.

    And to be honest, regardless of which it is, the short, medium, and long term solution is to immediately being, as a national security imperative, a national infrastructure upgrade and modernization program that fixes everything the American Society of Civil Engineers needs to be fixed – from power generation to power transmission to roads to bridges to tunnels to airports to seaports to hospitals to schools. And that when it is being upgraded and modernized it is also hardened against cyber and physical attack.

  44. 44


    And gas line safety has been a big issue in the labor dispute.

    Steve in the ATL been up there recently?

  45. 45
    different-church-lady says:

    @Adam L Silverman: All of which is a GREAT argument for voting over the internet! (eyeroll)

  46. 46
    Al Z. says:

    Deflate Gate 2.0

  47. 47
    Mnemosyne says:


    Now imagine living in Victorian times when both your light and heat came from the gas line and turning a lamp off incorrectly could be fatal for everyone in the house.

  48. 48
    Immanentize says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Didn’t you see his posts from Steve in the 617? :-)

  49. 49
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Immanentize: This is true.

    Though in this case I was suggesting that @schrodingers_cat: is being subjected to a specifically designed and targeted Psychological Operation and disinformation campaign to lull her into a false sense of safety.

  50. 50
    AnotherBruce says:

    Is it infrastructure week yet?

  51. 51

    @Adam L Silverman: So you’re saying we need another Infrastructure Week.

  52. 52
    Immanentize says:

    @Mnemosyne: But think of all the great novels and movies and ghost stories we got from gas poisoning. My house was built in 1910 near Boston and although fully electric, it has redundant natural gas piping throughout in case electric proved to be a too-modern innovation.

  53. 53
  54. 54
    Mnemosyne says:


    All of us Californians are thinking of the San Bruno gas explosion in 2010, which killed 8 people (according to Wikipedia). I don’t think anyone in the state was surprised that it was a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) line. They’re notoriously neglectful assholes who ripped a lot of people off during the Enron-created “energy crisis.” 😡

  55. 55
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @different-church-lady: This is an excerpt from a policy and strategy paper I wrote for someone I was providing support for back in January.

    In order to properly respond to the threat Putin poses to the US, its allies, its partners, and the global system it is necessary to delineate achievable objectives to counter his aggression. Determining the policy ends to be pursued is the first step and provides a structured approach for actual technical subject matter experts to flesh out the ways and means needed to achieve the policy goals. The ongoing Russian threat to the US requires both domestic and foreign policy changes in order to first stop Putin from achieving further successes and then to begin to repair the damage he has been able to create within the US, its allies, its partners, and to the global system. Both the domestic and foreign policy approaches to the threat posed by Putin need to be understood as part of US national security policy and strategy.

    The domestic policy issues arising from the 21st Century Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign targeting the US are primarily concerned with overlapping issues of infrastructure and regulation. Putin’s ways of achieving his objectives has been to weaponize the news and social media informational domains through leveraging cyberwarfare tactics, techniques, and procedures. As a result one of the most important policy changes that the US needs to make domestically is to fully articulate that the mediums through which information is broadcast and transmitted in the 21st Century is actual infrastructure vital for US national security. This does not mean a nationalization of cable and satellite broadcasters or social media platforms. Rather, it recognizes that these methods of transmitting information to Americans are as vital to US national security as roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, seaports, railroads, and the power grid. As such, they have to be appropriately regulated to safeguard them from exploitation from hostile state and non-state actors. And this appropriate regulation has to be both tough enough to secure this 21st Century information infrastructure, while at the same time balancing 1st Amendment rights and protections for both American citizens, as well as the legitimate interests of the service providers.

    We have been relearning the hard, painful lesson that simply relying on the marketplace to police and regulate itself leads to negative outcomes unless the market is provided with some carefully constructed, limited, and legitimate boundaries in which to operate. It is clear that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies and platforms will do what they are designed to do: maximize their profits while socializing their risks. While this approach may be good for the bank accounts of corporate executives and shareholders, it has created opportunities for Putin to weaponize these platforms allowing him to target specific American centers of gravity that can be influenced to achieve his strategic goals of domestically weakening the US so as to weaken its ability to lead in the global system. Appropriate regulation needs to include actual protections for both personally identifying information (PII), as well as other data pertaining to individuals political, social, religious, and economic beliefs and activities. Otherwise this information will continue to be monetized for profit and then weaponized against Americans.

    US elections processes, procedures, and infrastructure also need to be reexamined. The election infrastructure, including databases of voter information and the actual mechanics of how we cast, count, record, and certify votes must be designated critical infrastructure that is vital to national security. US policy should be that every election, for every position, at every level of government is conducted in a fair and transparent manner. And that all eligible voters who wish to vote have the opportunity to do so, have their votes properly recorded, and have faith in the integrity of the systems and processes we use to conduct our elections, as well as the outcomes of each specific election. This, like so many domestic national security concerns, will have to be addressed across all levels of government from municipal to Federal taking into account the rights of the real stakeholders – American voters – and the concerns of those tasked with carrying out elections in the US. While this should not be an opening for a heavy handed, Federally driven, top down, one size fits all approach, it should also not be the let several thousand flowers bloom approach we currently have. In the 2016 election cycle the Russians hacked into and accessed election systems in 39 states. The current consensus conclusion is that was all they did. It is of paramount importance going forward to establish policies and develop strategies to thwart hostile actors attempting to access these systems and actually tamper with election outcomes.

    Putin’s cyberwarfare has also targeted actual American infrastructure. Russian for cover officials have been tracked mapping US critical physical infrastructure, such as the communication and power transmission grid.9 This was in support of a cyberwarfare campaign to infiltrate and compromise another important American center of gravity: the US power generation and transmission grid.10 Putin’s ability to weaponize information and the platforms where American’s get their information combined with his ability to bring down all or portions of the US power grid should have every national security professional very, very, very worried. Putin’s cyberwarriors have already tried to create a response through planting false social media stories of actual fake news reports about a foreign terrorist attack on the US energy sector, an ebola outbreak, and a riot in response to a police shooting. All of which never happened.11 Imagine what happens when Putin starts turning parts of the US power grid off during extreme weather events while at the same time he’s spreading disinformation made to look like actual news reports or official municipal, state, and/or Federal responses to the disaster he’s created. This is the threat we face.

    As such the second domestic policy objective needs to be updating and hardening US infrastructure, especially the power generation and transmission grids, against cyberwarfare and conventional threats. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the US power generation and transmission grids a grade of D+ while stating the simple truth that it is aging and built to 1950s and 1960s code with an estimated 50 year life span at the time of its completion.12 The American Society of Civil Engineers also grades all US infrastructure with the same D+ as they awarded America’s energy infrastructure. This is itself concerning from a national security perspective. We learned on 9-11 that if America cannot fly people and goods around the country, then the US economy shuts down because our roads and rails are not designed to be alternate means of quickly and efficiently moving people and goods around the country. Now imagine a Russian cyberwarfare attack that brings down just two or three of the US’s air travel hubs by targeting the electrical systems that supply them. The damage to the US economy would be significant. It is of vital national security interest that a policy to upgrade, update, and harden the US energy generation and transmission infrastructure against cyberwarfare attack must be undertaken. Moreover, it would make sense to do the same to all of the US’s infrastructure so that American infrastructure becomes a series of overlapping systems – a system of systems – that create redundancy across different types of infrastructure in case there is a natural or man made failure of one type. Doing so removes these critical systems from Putin’s targeting list.

    The third domestic policy objective should seek to develop ways to protect American civil society from Putin’s infiltration. We now know that Russia has made concerted efforts to infiltrate, co-opt, and weaponize extremist movements like the Texas and California secessionist movements, as well as the white supremacists, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, and nativists that call themselves the alt-right. Russia’s penetration at all levels approach also appears to have targeted much more mainstream organizations such as the National Rifle Association and events such as the National Prayer Breakfast. There has been concerted outreach by Russian officials and oligarchs under Putin’s control to these organizations, as well as attempts to make common cause with a broad swath of social and religious conservatives in the US. Putin’s leveraging of his domestic alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church to promote the image of Putin as the grand protector of the Christian faith and traditional western values makes these attempts at infiltration especially worrisome. This policy goal should not be to curtail Americans’ enumerated 1st Amendment right to freedoms of religion and association, rather it should seek to safeguard them by ensuring that American social, political, and religious groups aren’t co-opted and weaponized against the US as part of Putin’s active measures campaign. Moreover, it should seek to keep money directed by Putin, as well as all other foreign funding, out of US elections. The concern is not that any specific group takes specific policy positions. The concern is that these groups are being used to launder money to create influence as a result of political speech to achieve Putin’s aims of weakening America through inflaming legitimate and illegitimate policy disagreements among Americans.

    There are also several foreign policy options that need to be considered. Some of these are similar to some of the domestic suggestions, such as the hardening of infrastructure and supporting civil society among our allies and partners. For instance, it appears that Russia has designs on the undersea communication cables that connect the world.13 As is the case with domestic US infrastructure, these undersea cables need to be hardened and protected against Russian attack. Should they be cut the effects on commerce, let alone the vital, necessary communications for both domestic national security and national security with our allies and partners would be catastrophic. Cutting these cables would be akin to a technological/ communication decapitation strike severing the US, its allies, and its partners from each other.

    8 Neil Buckley, “Putin’s Managed Democracy”, The Financial Times, 26 June 2006, 39682de4-053d-11db-9b9e-0000779e2340.
    9 Adam Weinstein, “Russia, Our New Anti-Terror ‘Ally’, is Spying Inside the US Like It’s 1959”, Task & Purpose, 1 June 2017,
    10 Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger, “Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plants, U.S. Says”, The New York Times, 15 March 2018,
    11 Adrian Chen, “The Agency”, The New York Times, 2 June 2015, the-agency.html.
    12 Infrastructure Report Card: Enegery, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2017, https:// http://www.infrastructurerepor.....-Final.pdf.

  56. 56
    Immanentize says:

    In other news, as I hoped, Willie Nelson is going to headline a rally for Beto O’Rourke on September 29 in Austin. Woot! Red neck pt heads will follow Willie. As will most motorcycle cruisers.

  57. 57
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Mnemosyne: Way way back in the day I was looking to rent in Plainfield NJ in an area where it was all run down victorian houses split up into apts. One of them still had gas pipe outlets in the wall to light up lamps. Out of curiosity and not really expecting anything I twisted a valve open and immediately heard SSSSSSSSSS. Reflecting on the shenanigans my roommates and I engaged in. I decided to keep looking

  58. 58
    MagdaInBlack says:

    Now THAT’S some real gas-lighting !

    And I was just remembering my gr-mother lighting her stove that way. 😑

  59. 59
    Miss Bianca says:

    Yow! Scary! I ducked out of online news and blog-mongering for a couple days, and between this and news of Florence, I’m feeling a little freaked on ducking back in!

  60. 60
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Every week is Infrastructure Week!!!!

  61. 61
    Mnemosyne says:


    Not just gas poisoning — good old arsenic played a big part, too. They used an arsenic-based green dye for wallpaper and then couldn’t figure out why people in those houses started dropping dead.

  62. 62

    …….. With a match…

  63. 63
    Another Scott says:

    @FlyingToaster: Thanks.


  64. 64
    Immanentize says:

    @Mnemosyne: But they looked really great when they died.\

    One thing I learned about arsenic poisoning is that the gradual build up with arsenic might kill you in the long run, but a slow build up of arsenic followed by cold turkey arsenic withdrawal kills right away. Fun criminal defense fact!

  65. 65
    Immanentize says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Yes. Thank you for sharing. Why not be ready?

  66. 66
    Ken says:

    Any tweets yet claiming MS-13 was behind it, the Democrats are to blame, and it’s not Trump’s fault at all because he’s the bigly bestest infrastructure president ever?

  67. 67
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Mnemosyne: MMMM had pointed San Bruno out to me on Twitter. Whenever one of our edge-case energy suppliers has a failure, us Massholes need to be reminded just how good we have it. PG&E, FP&L, they make Columbia and UNITIL look like pikers.

  68. 68

    @Tenar Arha: I can vouch for Lazarus House as well as Bread and Roses… Good orgs, good people

  69. 69

    The usual idiots are already screeching in pain.
    Something about how they thought he was a PATRIOT !!! 😱

  70. 70
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Immanentize: Actually, apparently, conservative heads have been exploding over this:

  71. 71
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Immanentize: I’ve only been making some variant of this argument since 2003. Got blown off by Senator Bob Graham when he was chairing the appropriate committee in the Senate and I was a post-doc at UF. The person I did this for took it seriously, unfortunately he lost his senatorial primary.

  72. 72
    Llelldorin says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    These guys are what, a bit slow? Willie Nelson’s been blue forever. I still remember him sending a case of whiskey to the Texas legislators who decamped for Albequerque during that redistricting fight a decade back.

  73. 73
    danielx says:


    The usual idiots think Ted Cruz is a great guy. Ted Fucking Cruz, the walking definition and personification of smarm.

  74. 74
    satby says:

    @Kraux Pas: never give to the Red Cross if there are other alternatives.
    Former RC disaster services volunteer here. Great people as volunteers, but the org is inefficient, to put it mildly. Wildly wasteful, to put it more bluntly.

  75. 75
    Mnemosyne says:


    Geez, even I know that Willie is a pot-smoking, long-haired hippie who happens to make country music. I’d bet $10 he was a Hillary voter, too.

  76. 76
    Immanentize says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Small number of small heads with big mouths.

  77. 77
    The Pale Scot says:

    @The Pale Scot:

    Russian for cover officials have been tracked mapping US critical physical infrastructure, such as the communication and power transmission grid.

    This really has me worried. And something I think you might want to put in you pipe is Brexit. The entire UK government are apparently idiots, and the population as whole have no idea what’s going to happen in March. The Leave Campaign has shady funding like cough cough.. All I need to is that Ian Paisley’s DUP party is enthusiastic. The NI’s only exports are agri to the EU. Go figure, the DUP are same kinda Chrstianist that Pence is.

    I get the feeling that the Glass is Falling

  78. 78
    Anne Laurie says:


    60-70? That’s Minnasota level neglect.

    This ain’t a nice Midwestern suburb, with one contractor putting up miles of cookie-cutter houses. It’s decades of patched-together lines, under a warren of houses put up one or two at a time by builders of more or less experience, followed by repairs and ‘improvements’ done by handymen and homeowners who may or may not have known the risks they were taking. The crowding issue alone would guarantee multiple explosions along a single compromised line, as I understand it.

  79. 79
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Llelldorin: Yes, yes they are.

  80. 80
    Immanentize says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    That does not surprise me but suddenly made me sad. Our stupid North/South grid has been and still is an obvious Target. Idgits.

  81. 81

    FFS, if they don’t know he was always blue, they’re not fans.

  82. 82
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I bet Willie is gonna give a fuck about this a few hours after the Whisky River runs dry.

    He campaigned for Bernie didn’t he? Yes, and not quietly.

  83. 83
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Immanentize: Yep.

  84. 84
    The Pale Scot says:

    @The Pale Scot: Fuck, #77 was suppose to a reply to Adam

  85. 85
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @The Pale Scot: Was this meant for me?

  86. 86
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    And to be honest, regardless of which it is, the short, medium, and long term solution is to immediately being, as a national security imperative, a national infrastructure upgrade and modernization program that fixes everything the American Society of Civil Engineers needs to be fixed – from power generation to power transmission to roads to bridges to tunnels to airports to seaports to hospitals to schools. And that when it is being upgraded and modernized it is also hardened against cyber and physical attack.

    THIS, times ten thousand!

  87. 87
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Miss Bianca: Keep calm and carry on!

  88. 88
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Immanentize: It is what it is. Until/unless I can get someone in a position to actually do something with this, it is just a nice piece of analysis.

  89. 89
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @The Pale Scot: The paper was US centric, but I did deal with the threats to our EU and NATO allies in other sections that I didn’t excerpt.

  90. 90
    Anotherlurker says:

    @The Pale Scot: In some older NYC buildings, the gas lines were used as electrical conduits. My Irish Uncle Jim, worked as a sparky in Manhattan and would regale me, the young tradesman, with wiring stories.

  91. 91
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Anne Laurie: An artist is rarely, if ever, appreciated during his or her own lifetime.

  92. 92
    L85NJGT says:


    The gas in early refrigerators was deadly.

  93. 93
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    OT: Did Bruce Springsteen’s career peter out in the early 90s?

  94. 94
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

    OTOH, sufficiently advanced malice is indistinguishable from [bad luck || incompetence || stupidity].

  95. 95
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @JGabriel: FFS

  96. 96
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    I don’t understand NY politics, with all their parties and ballots and whatnot, but this would seem to jibe with why people are saying this was a big night for progressives in NY

    ichard M. Nixon @ dick_nixon
    The story isn’t Cuomo, it’s that Nixon turned out enough to crush the “blue dog” faction in the State Senate that gave Republicans control. There are a lot of bills coming Cuomo won’t like. Either he fights and blows it all up or gives over and goes further left.

    As a national figure, then, Cuomo is either pissing in the wind or alienates the DLC types who’d have him in the first place. He’s screwed.

    Couldn’t happen to a Cuomo-ier guy.

  97. 97
  98. 98
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @The Pale Scot: Don’t ignore that Labour now seems to have an anti-semitism issue.

  99. 99

    @Mnemosyne: @Immanentize: The natural gas, methane, that we use today isn’t poisonous. What was used back in the days of gas lighting was water gas, produced by reacting water and coal. It was a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Carbon monoxide is a deadly poison at fairly low levels.

    @L85NJGT: Ammonia was the working fluid in older refrigerators. I recall homes being evacuated when the refrigerator started leaking. The working fluid now is a fluorinated hydrocarbon, the same kind of thing as in your car’s air conditioner.

  100. 100
    The Pale Scot says:

    Responding to someone up there
    Smokin Dope Song by David Allan Coe

    Willie got high, on the Whitehouse roof, and ol’ Merle Haggard like to smoke that hooch, and there’s a tale of to to tell about Jimmy Lee
    My favorite country singer is Johnny Cash, and back in ’68 he liked to smoke that hash..

    And of course “I’ll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again”

  101. 101
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    However, claims of antisemitism being uniquely problematic in the Labour Party have been challenged. For example, in 2016, the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee held an inquiry into antisemitism in the United Kingdom. The committee found “no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party. In addition, a number of Jewish groups in the Labour Party have disputed the antisemitism claims. These include Jewish Voice for Labour, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Jewish Socialists’ Group; all of whom have said that accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party have a twofold purpose. Firstly to conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel in order to deter such criticism and secondly to undermine the Labour leadership since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2015.

    Just from the wikipedia article on it. Other than that, I don’t know much beyond this.

  102. 102
    KSinMA says:

    @The Pale Scot: “The entire UK government are apparently idiots”

    It sure looks that way. Seems like they’ve got the whole country bamboozled re: Brexit. Strange and scary.

  103. 103
    mad citizen says:

    That Civil Engineers report is total crap regarding a D+ grade for the electric industry. We all pay through our rate billions that is constantly upgrading the grid. Cyber also has been a priority for many years. Things are under control in the electric industry. If anything, with flat load growth we’re probably overbuilding/spending in some areas.

  104. 104
    J R in WV says:


    Not just gas poisoning — good old arsenic played a big part, too. They used an arsenic-based green dye for wallpaper and then couldn’t figure out why people in those houses started dropping dead.

    My grandmother had a spot of psoriasis, and was treated with arsenic, which they built up gradually. My dad said once that she took enough aresnic daily to kill a troup of boy scouts. This was back in the 1940s-1960s so long before actual medications were developed. I supposed it worked to at least some degree.

    And not always poisonous…

  105. 105
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: @Omnes Omnibus: There is, at least, an appearance of impropriety issue here. As in an appearance of anti-Semitism. A great deal of it revolves around whether Corbyn is just tone deaf politically so that his anti-Zionism and legitimate criticisms of the State of Israel come of as actual anti-Semitism or that he’s actually anti-Semitic. My take, from doing a pretty deep dive into this rabbit hole is that he’s definitely the former and there is still significant evidence, though it is subject to interpretation, of the latter. And all of this is wrapped up in the cult of Corbyn that are his supporters.

  106. 106
    mad citizen says:

    The American Society of Civil Engineers wants what? More, and dramatically more, spending on projects that civil engineers work on. You have to consider the source. I’m only critiquing their conclusion on the electric industry, my industry. No one ever refers to that report as we go about planning and analyzing new generation and transmission projects. Kiki

  107. 107
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The anti-Semitic thing is typical political BS. The future of the UK is one without the stability of being a party of over 200 EU agreements with other countries. All of the reciprocal contracts between companies in the UK and the EU become void, they are covered by insurance policies that require that both parties adhere to the same standardization put down in the contract they signed. No insurance, no business if you have a loan out, the loan is going to have a clause about market accessibility, if the insurance company has a clue. And yea, they have a clue, especially the re-insurers that back every contract up.

    The frightening thing is that the MSM is treating this like a horse race, running with stories about what could happen like their breaking news, instead shit that was being revealed 2 yrs ago

  108. 108
    Matt McIrvin says:

    I live in Haverhill very near the affected area, but coincidentally we are not there– we are in a hotel during scheduled home repairs. The suite we reserved was bigger than we expected, so when all this went down we took in one of my wife’s coworkers and her husband, who can’t go home tonight. A happy coincidence on a scary day.

    My own first thought was of the movie Brazil– there is what seems like an endless terrorist bombing campaign but it’s probably just gas explosions from the shambolic utility infrastructure breaking down. I remember somebody saying that, yes, cyber-terrorists might bring everything down but so might squirrels.

  109. 109
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I have been seeing enough that my very WASP (almost a human boat shoe) self found it that I am bothered. When I studied in London in 1984, I was really impressed by the people in the SDP. Too late for that.

  110. 110
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @The Pale Scot: Can you explain without hand-waving?

  111. 111
    Amir Khalid says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷:
    No. What makes you think that? Bruce broke up the E Street Band after the Amnesty International tour, then married the backing vocalist (Patti Scialfa a woefully underrated singer/songwriter in her own right) and started a family. But he was still touring and recording the whole time.

  112. 112
    the Pale Scot says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I spoke off hand up above. By BS I meant MSM bait. Labour’s not power, and are too disorganized to obtain power, I don’t pay attention to them except at the Prime Minister’s Questions from the Commons, which you can catch at

  113. 113
    FlyingToaster says:

    Okay, we’re up to 1 dead: a teenager getting in his car to leave has the chimney fall on him. article

  114. 114
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @the Pale Scot: I realize a lot of this is catnip for Fleet Street.

  115. 115
    Mnemosyne says:

    @J R in WV:

    As Immanentize alluded to above, there’s acute arsenic poisoning, but also chronic poisoning. If you manage the dose just right, you can build up a tolerance to it, which is a major “Don’t try this at home, kids!”

    Mystery author Dorothy Sayers had a mystery novel that revolved around the right dose of arsenic — I think it was in Strong Poison.

  116. 116
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    About the results of Brexit on the UK economy? Or the Corbyn anti-semitic thing? I don’t follow inter-party intrigue, it’s really not an influence on what’s going to happen. On March 29, despite the financials “hedging”, the courts are going to be overwhelmed with competitors in EU courts saying that the UK doesn’t have the right to compete except at a great disadvantage. My concern is on the year after Brexit and how that is going to to unravel the western alliance and how that is going to affect the IE and Scotland. The English are irrational.

  117. 117
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @The Pale Scot: The anti-semitic thing, and you knew that.

  118. 118
    PJ says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Freon was the miracle chemical because it was inert at the earth’s surface, so no problems about accidentally poisoning the family when the refrigerator started to leak. Unfortunately, it tended to break down in the stratosphere.

  119. 119
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Man, yea I read the headline and skimmed the article. The event isn’t going to affect anything. Corbyn can’t get full support of Labour as long as he is supporting Brexit, that’s the only thing I focused on. I take English Protestant politician’s bigotry as a given as a given. It’s not a new thing in the Labour party.

  120. 120
    mapaghimagsik says:

    @Schlemazel: At the risk of saying too much, I wish it was that simple. You have cybersecurity people overstating the capabilities of their products, network engineers overstating their effectiveness at separating our networks, and firewall manufacturers selling their ‘deep packet inspection’ as something that replaces good coding practices.

    In that sense, we are the Trump era. Lying, overstating, selling, losing money and calling it profit. Someday, the wheels come off.

  121. 121
    Mart says:

    I would go with something simple. Utility gas pressure regulator fails on major distribution line. Your oven and a couple stove top burners are on and the burst of gas blows out the flames like birthday candles. Fill up kitchen with gas, gas finds a spark.

    Way cooler if a fat kid in China did it.

  122. 122
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: October 4!

  123. 123
    mapaghimagsik says:

    @The Dangerman: ow. You get your internets tonight.

  124. 124
    MoxieM says:

    This happened before in eastern MA, although on a tiny scale by comparison. Gas Co was working on a main street in Lexington. About 6-7 years ago, at least one, maybe 2 (??) houses blew up. It turned out to be the fault of the Gas Co–same one, probably under a different monniker. The guys doing the work had used some wrong kind of fitting/valve/something and it spiked the pressure in a line going down a small street with 3-4 houses on it.

    A few of the house(s) exploded, thankfully nobody was home, but only just barely in one house. One of my mom’s best friends lived nearby. This (relatively) small gas explosion–that levelled the house utterly–was scary enough. Cannot imagine what 30-40 times bigger is like.

    Old infrastructure. Hell, I owned a house in the far south-east part of the city, and it had galvanized piping with live gas in the walls. Bad news.

  125. 125
    MoxieM says:

    @Immanentize: If it’s running through the old pipes (probably a d’oh!), get it switched off and disconnected. Lots of those pipes are very thin walled, and they corrode over time. Not Safe. no…NOT SAFE. Please get the gas inside the walls for lighting etc shut off! (They also used to run old wiring through the now empty gas line, and reconfigured the fittings, e.g., the decorative part, to run on electricity.) There were double fixtures: gas up, electricity down. Bad Bad Bad. PLEASE make sure this is not the case at your house.
    Everyone here would miss you if your house blew up.

  126. 126
    Bostonian says:

    @MoxieM: Yeah, that’s the way it is at my house (ca 1885). What used to be gas sconces are now electric sconces, with the wires running through the gas pipes. But the gas pipes don’t connect to the gas in the basement anymore. That part all got replaced.

  127. 127
    dimmsdale says:

    Adam, a quick thanks for posting the excerpt from your paper. It’s a well thought out way to conceptualize the ‘public utility’ nature of social media, and I appreciate it. If we ever get back to a pro-regulatory climate again in this country (!?) it’ll be a good map forward. Cheers!

  128. 128
    MoxieM says:

    @Bostonian: good to hear (4 threads late). It’s kind of a bug of mine, since I think the presence of “anonymous” gas in pre-1900 houses is under-appreciated. As in, building inspectors often miss it. And as an old house nut–dangle an 18thc. place in front of me and i’ll drool. Nearly bought a tiny farmhouse near the beach in CT for unbelievably low money. Of course it had a contaminated well, and about $12 to hook up to the *new* water line in the street. And the basement was funkier than even I could tolerate. Dead animal smell is not the way to market a house! piles of coal and 250 years great green greasy gunk… Sigh. One BR had no closet; the other had no electricity. I pointed out to the RE Agent that technically the house had zero bedrooms. ((sour face)). heh

Comments are closed.