The Explosion In Noel

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.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment