The Explosion In Noel

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Arndt Noel, Missouri 64854

(So many of these stories of explosions are written about years ago, but this is one that happened just last summer - it's frightening - Anna Mae)

Sunday, August 3rd, 1969, at 4:03 in the morning, Noel, Missouri, was horrified and terrified by an explosion of indescribable and unbelievable magnitude that cannot be described by a word picture or with a camera. Only we, who live in Noel and have seen, from day to day, the damages done to the homes and business buildings, have a faint conception of the tremendous power of that explosion.

So far, we have not had a satisfactory answer what caused the explosion. A train came into Noel with a burning flat car with two cylinders or vats of ammonium per chlorate, an oxidizer for propellant fuel and a box car containing alfalfa meal. No one knows what triggered the explosion. It is reported that five cars were totally disintegrated and parts were scattered as far as a mile from the explosion.

Approximately 115 homes and 48 business places were either damaged or totally wrecked. One person was killed, another died from a heart attack and about 80 persons were injured. No one has the answer why more were not killed. It is unbelievable.

About fifteen minutes before the big explosion we were awakened by a small explosion. I immediately donned my shirt, pants and shoes and went on the hill where our street intersects with highway 90 to see what had happened and where the fire was. Moments later I had a birds-eye view of the big explosion.

There was a large shaft of blue-white fire went sky-ward forming a mushroom or ball at its top with white hot missiles or fragments flying in all directions, which proved to be pieces of iron and steel. The force of the blast pushed me backward fifteen or more feet. At that same time there was a deafening roaring noise, followed by a vacuum and a dead silence, except for falling iron and steel.

The hub of a railroad car wheel landed on the pavement only twenty feet to my right. A car coupling landed forty feet to my left and a thirty pound piece of iron landed only 12 feet to my left. Sixteen pieces of iron and steel, from four to fifty pounds, landed in our yard. That was 870 feet from the explosion. A car wheel landed 150 feet from our yard and a piece of steel, the size of a pick-up truck bed, landed 200 feet from our yard.

Firemen, policemen, rescue squads and sheriffs deputies from Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas were summoned. A company of National Guard were ordered into Noel. Marshal Law was clamped on Noel to prevent looting and pilfering.

The Red Cross established quarters in the Methodist Church basement to serve food. The Salvation Army served sandwiches from their mobile kitchen and the Churches in neighboring towns also served food. Used clothing was brought in from everywhere.

A crater, 50 feet in diameter and twelve feet deep was made by the explosion and the dirt, ties and rails were blown everywhere. A car axle landed in the alley back of the drug store. Car parts, from rivets, bolts car wheels and large steel sheets were blown in all directions in an area one mile from the explosion. Many sheets of steel were wrapped around trees and many scraps of iron and steel went through homes and business buildings.

All of the plate glass fronts, on main street, except three, in Noel, were blown in, not out, and shattered glass was everywhere. Roofs were caved in, rafters shattered and broken, partitions were moved, brick walls split wide open. Even foundations were shattered.

85 trailer homes were brought in here by the housing authority for people to live in while their homes are being repaired, rebuilt or new homes built.

My store was badly demolished and I was out of business for seven weeks, and the last repair was just completed this last week, over six months after the explosion. Mentally we are just now returning back to normal. Never, never do I want to see anything like that again.

This word picture covers only a small part of the devastating destruction done by that explosion. So much more could be said by describing the condition of the wrecked homes and buildings.

The citizens of Noel are not bitter, but thankful that many were not killed. There is no solution or answer how they escaped. I am deep fully grateful to be here to write about that dreadful explosion.