A powerful gas explosion in Columbia, Maryland, destroyed at least one building on Sunday morning and sent shock waves rippling through homes and businesses over a mile away.
According to Howard County Fire and Rescue, officials responded to reports of a natural gas leak at a shopping center and the Lakeside Office Building in Columbia around 7:30 a.m.—about 30 minutes before the gas explosion.
When they arrived on the scene, fire officials said that a gash in the pavement about 10 feet long and several inches wide in the parking lot was emitting gas and transferring it into the building.
No businesses were open yet and officials worked swiftly to evacuate all bystanders beyond a safety perimeter 1,000 feet away.
No injuries were reported, officials said. Gas and electricity were shut off in the Stanford Boulevard and McGaw Road area following the explosion.
“If it had been a normal workday, the evacuation or clearing of the area would have been a little bit harder, and we would have definitely had a different circumstance,” Howard County Fire Battalion Chief Stephen Hardesti said.
Hardesti said at a press conference on Sunday morning that the building appeared “totaled” and was at risk of collapsing further. Crews were working to secure the building.
Those who live and work in the area reported feeling a rumbling and hearing a loud boom that shook their homes just before 8 a.m. Sunday. Many said the trembling felt like an earthquake.
A resident tweeted, “My neighbors, wife, and I all felt a rumble a few (around 10-15) minutes ago. All our houses visibly and audibly shook.”
People from over a mile away felt the blast.
“I’m 5 miles away and I heard and felt it! Shook the roof,” wrote one user.
The majority of the storefronts in the shopping center were destroyed. The beige mortar, tan brick, forest green awnings and roofs, were shredded and crumbled in the parking lot.
The U.S. Social Security Administration is located in the Lakeside Office building, which also houses other businesses. It wasn’t clear which businesses were in the part of the building that exploded.
Officials are investigating the origin of the blast.