Friday, December 11, 2009

A tale of fire and ice (but not in that order)

I live in what is called a bedroom community. It's located about 16 miles away from the newspaper where I work as the business editor.

These details proved to be both a blessing and a curse (again, not necessarily in that order) this week.

First, the curse.
The newsroom was hopping Monday afternoon. Speculation about the size of the snowstorm creeping into Nebraska forced me to complete all of my work a day early.

I expected the storm to hit sometime Tuesday morning and prevent me from making it to the office. As the hours progressed, however, it became obvious that I would at least be able to work until deadline.

But I wasn't staying any longer than that. Not after last year, when a whiteout left me stranded at a truck stop for several hours.

Not fun.
Luckily, the storm was relatively mild. While the blizzard caused businesses to close early and it was a pain driving home, the ample warning gave everyone a chance to get where they were going and make arrangements to stay there. By Wednesday afternoon, the hustle and bustle was pretty much back to normal.

I figured the week might not be so bad after all.

But then Thursday morning rolled around.

On the way to work, I saw a huge, black cloud drifting over the city where I work. Seconds later, I heard the first reports of a major fire.
From there, the day got crazier.

As it turned out, a fire was threatening to burn through a 33,000-gallon propane tank located in the center of the city. Within an hour, police and rescue personnel had evacuated a third of the town. (That's about 8,000 people.) Everything located within a mile of the fire, including several schools, daycares and businesses, needed to be abandoned.

Although the paper where I work was on the northern edge of the evacuation zone, my co-workers and I worked together to get the news out. Thursday morning's incident was the first time in my 10+ years at the paper, where I actually felt a little scared to be a reporter.

It wasn't clear what would happen at the newspaper office if the BLEVE occured. Shattered windows? Building collapse? Toxic clouds? The situation was uncertain and frightening.

Thankfully (and here's the blessing) I didn't have to worry about my family because they were several miles away. And more importantly, the firefighters (all of whom are the biggest heroes in my book) managed to contain the fire and put it out without injury or loss of life.
It could have been so much worse. I'm ready for an uneventful weekend.

Suh for Heisman!


christine said...

Whew...definitely a blessing! Glad to hear that everything turned out okay.

B.J. Anderson said...

I'm glad everything turned out ok!

Journaling Woman said...

Wow. I am still back on you being stranded at a truck stop. At least, I guess, you weren't in a snow bank.

Missouri is terrible for snow storms, but I think maybe Nebraska is worse with all the flat land?

Rosslyn Elliott said...

That is more drama than most of us get in a year! (Well, physical drama. I'm sure we all get PLENTY of emotional drama. LOL!) I'm glad it worked out OK.

Kat Harris said...

Christine, B.J. & Rosslyn -- I'm counting blessings right and left this weekend. :-)

Journaling -- Being stranded at truck stop last winter was scary, but I look at the bright side: It wasn't ths side of the road. (I live in the northeast corner of NE. There's a lot of rolling hills here. That helps. I'm glad I'm not a flat-lander.)

Iapetus999 said...

Scary. Do you have a link to that story?

Kat Harris said...

Iapetus999 -- You bet! If you go here, you can find one of the many stories our paper did:

Otherwise, just go to and click on "News" there will be several stories that pop up.

LynnRush said...

Yikes. That's a lot to deal with. Jeepers. Your life is very exciting, Kat.

Glad everything worked out relatively well.