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Response to Sissonville explosion was amazing

The pipeline explosion that turned Interstate 77 near Sissonville into an inferno was remarkable not only because it was so spectacular, but because the response was so astonishing.

The emergency alert system instantly warned everyone when the gas line exploded about 12:40 p.m.

First responders arrived quickly despite treacherous conditions. People remained calm thanks to the broadcast warnings and excellent communications.

Four schools in the Sissonville area went into the shelter-in-place mode, protecting 2,000 children. Aldersgate United Methodist Church opened its shelter.

Division of Highways officials reacted quickly, tapping West Virginia Paving to replace the 800-foot stretch of the interstate destroyed by the fire.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who inspected the damage, later told reporters, "It was like walking on a volcano."

But within 15 hours, crews from West Virginia Paving had turned that volcano back into a major traffic artery. They worked in the cold and dark to pour more than 1,300 tons of material onto that highway and had traffic going again by 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The Red Cross and Gino's Pizza in Sissonville made sure the paving crew was fed and supplied with coffee.

The comforts of Western civilization rest on the shoulders of such crews, be they in law enforcement, fire service, road repair or restoring electricity.

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived late Tuesday to begin an investigation. A state that has 15,000 miles of such pipelines is and should be concerned about why this happened.

Still, the situation could have been worse, and the response could not have been better.



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