Columbia, MD (WJZ)– Howard County Fire officials responded to a report of a gas explosion just before 8 a.m. Sunday morning at a shopping center in the 8800 block of Stanford Boulevard in the Columbia area.
Initial reports of a gas leak were first reported around 7:30 a.m. with the explosion happening a short time later.
“I just got up took my shower was going downstairs to eat my breakfast and I heard a boom, it was really loud,” said neighbor Joel McDonald.
No injuries have been reported from the explosion that was so powerful it was heard in communities miles away.
Another neighbor, Christine Battle, said the back of the building is nothing but debris.
Howard County Fire Battalion Chief Stephen Hardesty says the time of day and day of the week helped this incident avoid any injuries.
BGE said in a statement Sunday evening that they received a gas odor call from the Howard County Fire Department, and while their crew member was on the site, the explosion occurred.
“We have completed safety inspections of the area gas mains and surrounding buildings and have not found any issues with the gas equipment. Gas and electric service to the building remain off. Additionally, our records do not indicate any recent reports of gas odors from the location or in the past year.
As recently as July 2019 we performed a scheduled inspection of the gas main and equipment serving this area and found no issues. We are continuing to work closely with investigators to understand the cause of the incident.
Our thanks go to the prompt and skilled response by the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services and responding BGE crew members who moved quickly to clear the area to a safe distance and terminate gas and electric service.
Their actions and the fortunate early morning weekend timing prevented a very serious incident from becoming worse. As always, immediate reporting of any gas odors or issues is critical to public safety.”
Officials reported widespread power outages affecting businesses in the area of Standford Blvd and McGaw Road.
Due to the power outages, firefighters were called to rescue several people from an elevator in a nearby business.
Flames from the gas-fed fire continued to burn for about an hour before officials from BGE and fire crews were able to finally get it extinguished.
The explosion left several businesses destroyed.
“We have about 20-30 businesses impacted so I ask our economic development authority to continue working with them as they continue to move forward,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.
Some neighbors said they were devastated.
“It touches my heart this is my community, I used the tailors, they are kind people, I know there’s a coffee shop,” Battle said.
Officials said they are still working to determine what caused the gas leak.
Area roadways surrounding the explosion were shut down as BGE and Howard County Fire continue their operations.
Gov. Larry Hogan issued a statement following the incident:
“This massive explosion was felt in many of the surrounding communities, a shock to families across the area. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported so far. We are grateful to Howard County first responders for being on the scene in minutes. Our Maryland Joint Operations Center and State Fire Marshal have offered their full support and assistance as we work to determine the cause of this explosion,”