CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The gas line explosion that hit Sissonville has scarred the landscape as well as the outlook of area residents.
"It looks completely different," said Rhonda Payne, 46. "It's kind of scary, really."
Every time a truck rumbles past her Derricks Creek home, her heart races as she wonders if another catastrophe may strike.
In the afternoon of Dec. 11, a 20-inch diameter natural gas transmission line ruptured, sending flames into the sky, scorching the earth, and ruining the surface of a section of Interstate 77. Some homes along Sissonville Drive were demolished and others damaged. Miraculously, there were no serious injuries.
A ghostly string of houses and mobile homes along the road now stand vacant with melted siding and no electricity.
When the explosion hit, Darell Sigmon was living in a rental home on a hill above an area where Sissonville Drive meets Derricks Creek.
He was home at the time with his girlfriend, Lorie Estep, and their two Chihuahuas, Reese and Tinker.
Because the doors were too hot to touch, they escaped through a window. They ran up Derricks Creek away from the flames with the little dogs in their arms. Someone in a truck gave them a ride to the safety of a relative's house.
Sigmon was at the rental house on Wednesday trying to salvage a few belongings from inside. The explosion melted the siding, damaged the foundation and sent huge rocks through the roof. It also damaged the Dodge truck he had borrowed from his father that was in the driveway.
"It looks like a ghost town," he said, as he pointed to areas where two houses once stood.
He and Estep and the dogs are temporarily housed in the Red Roof Inn as they search for another place to rent.
"We're looking for a place," he said. "It's hard because we have animals. Every time we find a place, they say no pets. It's even harder in the middle of winter to find a place."
Sigmon's father, Emmett Sigmon, lives nearby on Teresa Lane where his home sustained no damage.