A year after building explosion, signs of progress on NW 23rd

NW 23rd one year after explosion

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A year after a massive explosion destroyed one building and damaged several others on Portland’s Northwest 23rd Avenue, there are signs of progress.

The blast happened at the corner of Northwest 23rd and Glisan Street. A truck from Moonstruck chocolate now sits at the corner, serving customers in need of drinks or sweets. It’s a sign that the business, which was forced out of its damaged building, will return.

“So many people come up and say we're so happy you're back and they all ask of course when the new cafe will re-open. We don’t know but we will be here until then,” said employee Janice Beatty.

A year ago, she worked at a restaurant several blocks away. She remembers the blast and the way people rushed in -- bewildered.

“So it was really devastating, and when we saw the magnitude of it, it was sad to see so many businesses that were displaced,” she said.

The explosion happened after a company named Loy Clark Pipeline hit a natural gas pipeline under the street, according to an investigative report by the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

The company had asked that underground utilities be marked on the south side of Glisan, according to the report, but a backhoe operator dug on the north side where there were no markings.

Fire crews rushed in and evacuated the area. The incident commander is still amazed that only six people were hurt, and no one died.

“I had ordered up two strike teams of ambulances --because at a bare minimum--and a strike team is five ambulances--so I figured we were gonna transport--and when I got that patient count--I was like--how could that possibly be? We just blew up in one of our most dense areas in the city of Portland!” said Battalion Chief Jamie Klum from Portland Fire and Rescue.

He credits his team with saving lives.

One of the hardest hit business survivors is Blush Beauty Bar, right across 23rd from the blast. The windows were knocked out and the frames were bent. Makeup inside melted.

A year later, the turmoil continues.

“I think most people think, 'oh a year later, everything’s done, everything’s taken care of',” said owner Deborah Haynes.

“You are up and running. Everything’s great. And that’s just not the case,” she said.

Haynes said the explosion caused $100,000 damage to her store and her products.

She's still dealing with her insurance company and the one for the firm that caused the blast.

You can feel the toll it’s taken when you ask what she remembers about the blast day one year ago.

“Oh my goodness. I think my first reaction was in shock. And...see it comes back,” she said beginning to tear up. “Even a year later, that’s what I remember about that day. Right there. It was a very emotional day and many months to follow,” she said.

The Public Utilities Commission report lists damage from the blast at over $17 million.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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