Gas blast blew out metal door


POSTED: Saturday, August 15, 2009

A blast at the State Office Tower on Thursday was so powerful it blew the communications room's 7-foot metal entry door about 15 feet across the hallway, hitting a concrete wall and leaving the metal bolts bent at a 90-degree angle in the door frame.

The blast also destroyed file cabinets with books and manuals inside the room. A large air-conditioning unit partially hung outside the window.

The explosion occurred in the room at about 12:48 a.m. Thursday, also blowing out a large window panel with pieces hitting the No. 1 Capitol District Building (the former Hemmeter Building) across the street. There were no injuries.

Gas Co. officials will investigate what caused the gas leak and how it entered the Leiopapa State Office Tower on Beretania Street.

“;This is a very unusual incident,”; said Gas Co. spokeswoman Stephanie Ackerman.

Crew members were to resume repairs to a damaged 4-inch gas line today after stopping work yesterday afternoon before rush-hour traffic began on Beretania, a main downtown thoroughfare.

;[Preview]  Building Gas Leak Explosion Investigation

State managers are still assessing damage from yesterday's gas explosion in the state office tower as well as figuring out how the gas got into the building.

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On Thursday, fire crews determined gas from the synthetic natural gas line outside the building had likely leaked into conduits and created a buildup in the room. The conduits protect cable lines that run from under Beretania Street into the communications room. The building does not contain gas lines.

“;It had to have got into this room somehow,”; said state Comptroller Russ Saito, of the Department of Accounting and General Services.

While the explosion happened when no one was in the building, foot traffic occurs during the workday in the hallway that the metal door flew across. The door that leads to the communications room is near the maintenance room where paperwork is done, according to Saito.

The room, which houses equipment providing computer communications to offices in the building, is normally unoccupied. Some equipment was salvaged but other items were destroyed.

Other parts of the building were not damaged in the blast.

Workers cleaned the communications room yesterday of the heavy ponding caused by the sprinkler system that activated after the explosion. Officials were still assessing the damage yesterday.

Electrical power was restored to the building at 10:30 a.m. yesterday, a day after it was shut down. The building will reopen Monday after being closed for two days. Employees were allowed to enter the building today to complete any work disrupted by the closure.