Sunday, August 10, 2008


For my readers in Ontario, and probably Canada, you will have some idea of the story that makes up this post.

Sunday morning/Saturday night, around 3:30 am. Collette and Hayley are in bed. I'm in the living room, on the computer working on... who'd a thunk ... this blog. Just typing away, half asleep (I know that anyone who reads this blog will not be shocked to learn that I am usually half out of it when I write it .. I just won't say which half) when .. well .. BOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!!

I thought something had hit the house. The windows rattled. Collette said the bed moved. Miss Hayley instantly hit the deck. I swear, the ground shook. I realized nothing had hit us but my next thought was: There's been a plane crash, a big one, nearby.

I went out onto the front porch... Boom! Another one, not as loud, but as significant. I knew it was coming from the west, how far away I could not tell. I went back into the house and Collette and I knew it was not thunder. This has been a summer of big thunderstorms in Ontario but this was beyond anything either of us had ever before heard. Besides, for once it was not raining and there was no lightning.

I went back into the street. Now I could smell something, sharp and gritty and acrid. Plane crash was still in my head, I have never smelled burning airplane fuel but I knew it must be strong. Except ... it was still booming. Low, throaty, sub sonic booms, one following the other. For all the world like artillery shells. I had to find out what the fuck was going on.

Tied the hair back, slipped on runners and a jacket and I started running towards the sound .. ok, not running .. hobble quickly maybe. I went over to the Glencairn subway station which is on an overpass above the Allen Expressway. When I got up there, I could see the plume of black smoke that was hundreds of feet in the air. The explosions were still occurring. I could see the flares inside the massive smoke stack ... there was still a mushroom at the top of the cloud.

I could see that it was to the northwest and my first thought was the old Downsview airforce base that is now a federal park. But it still houses the de Havilland airplane plant. My mind was still thinking plane crash .. I knew that the ongoing explosions could not be one jet but maybe many ...

I realized that in my haste, I had not grabbed a camcorder. I was really thinking: Access the danger and decide if I need to drive my family to safety rather than worry about image taking. Collette, however, is more dedicated than I. I turn around and there she is, in bare feet and nightie, three blocks from the house, with the D-80. The night was not conducive to really quality pictures but she managed a couple.

You can just see the ball of smoke rising above the trees, somewhat to the right and at the top of the pic. That is about three miles away from we are on the overpass.

You can see the fire here, that is actually one of the explosions, overpowering the lights of the highway. These explosions just went on and on, some of them flaring up hundreds of feet. I wandered around and we heard Downsview again, but then someone suggested an oil refinery, up Dufferin somewhere .. that seemed to make sense.

We went back to the house and tried to find some info. Later, we learned that he explosion had occurred at a propane facility at Keele and Wilson .. not far from one of our old houses. It shattered windows for blocks around. Someone on the beach in Niagra on the Lake reported seeing the fireball from there. That's like an hour or so away. Over a thousand people had to be evacuated. Mostly minor injuries but unfortunately, at this point, a fire fighter passed away. And one person is missing, someone who may have been on site.

A few subway stations were shut down and, of course, the highways were a complete mess. That area affects the Allen, the 401 and access to the 400. We had images of hundreds of cars just parked in the express lanes .. really, not so different from an average rush hour. Yorkdale Mall was evacuated for some reason ... maybe they had to quickly restock the new fall fashions to compliment the tones of smoke and fire ...

As of this writing, no cause is being discussed. There was some rumour that some delivering propane saw something burning but it has the sound of an urban legend. Of course, these days everyone was thinking terrorism but that seems unlikely.

For more info try this but it has been all over the news, you may know more than I.

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