By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Bernice Hall was focused on her knitting Thursday afternoon at her home in the 2000 block of South Grand Avenue when she heard the blast.
“I kind of jumped,’’ she said. “I told my grandson: ‘It’s not storming, but something just blew up.’ It sure scared the hell out of me.’’
A contractor with the school district’s reconstruction projects said the explosion about 5 p.m. Thursday near the site of the new Joplin High School was a blast for a storm-drain project. He attributed property damage caused by the blast to some sort of malfunction. The Joplin fire chief said the explosives company is not required to give notice of the blasts. He said the fire department will monitor the next blast, which is scheduled for Tuesday.
Hall said she walked out the front door of her home to see a cloud of white smoke come from the construction site for the new high school where explosives had been used to blast away some rock.
“The white smoke came from down that way,” she said in reference to the work site. “I saw neighbors walking down there to see what had happened.’’
Flying rock from the blast caused what was described as minor damage to the vinyl siding of two houses, one on South Kentucky Avenue and the other on South Grand. The back passenger window in a vehicle driven by Mary Myers, of Joplin, was blown out while she was traveling east on 20th Street at Kentucky Avenue. No injuries were reported.
Hall had no damage to her home, but she was surprised that no one had warned property owners along Grand Avenue that a blast was imminent.
“They should have warned us,’’ she said.
Daniel Todd, who lives in the 2000 block of South Kentucky, was at home when the blast occurred.
“It sounded like a real big thunderclap,’’ he said. “I went outside on the porch and looked around. There was a big old smoke cloud that came rolling in from over in that area (the high school).
“There wasn’t any notice they were going to be blowing anything up that we received,’’ he said. “I would think even if legally you don’t have to (provide notice), it’s something you should do.’’
His wife, Mackenzie, asked, “What if my kids were playing outside?’’
A Joplin police officer came by the Todds’ home on Friday morning. After they walked around their home with the officer, they found a place where their siding had been damaged by flying debris.
“There is a crack in the siding — on our brand new siding,’’ she said, noting that they plan to meet with a contractor and their insurance agent to assess the damage.
Because debris escaped from the site, a second planned blast has been delayed so that the contractor, Explosive Contractors Inc., of Hollister, can determine why the initial blast apparently went awry.
Efforts to reach a spokesman with Explosive Contractors for comment were unsuccessful on Friday.
“There was a malfunction of some sort,’’ said Mike Johnson, who is overseeing the school district’s building effort. “It blew out to the north.’’
Johnson said the excavating contractor ran into rock at the construction site that was damaging equipment.
“A blasting contractor was called in who does nothing but blasting,’’ he said. “It’s all they do.’’
The explosives were detonated about 100 feet east of 22nd Street and Grand Avenue, where work is proceeding on a stormwater drainage system for the site.
Johnson said the contractor is licensed and has insurance to cover such losses. Those with possible damage may call Eritt Howard, a company representative, at 417-294-2252, he said.
Joplin Fire Chief Mitch Randles said the company received a permit from the department and from the state Division of Fire Safety. The permits did not spell out a specific time and date for the blast that took place Thursday.
“We were given a date range from yesterday through Dec. 31,’’ he said. “They will blast two times, maybe three at tops.’’
The department is involved to make sure the company that was issued the permit has a safe blast plan and taken the necessary precautions to protect the public. A key issue is whether explosives are stored and transported in a safe manner, Randles said.
The company, he said, has done blasting in the city in the past without incident.
“They are planning to modify the way they are blasting,” Randles said. “They will shut down until early next week. We will monitor the next blast, which is planned for Tuesday.
“With a ground blast like this, there is no requirement to notify the neighborhood,’’ he said. “Under normal circumstances, most people out there would have heard a small rumble. People a few blocks away would not have noticed it at all.’’