Pat Shingleton: "Molasses and Plan Icing..."
Today marks the anniversary of “America’s most fascinating and surreal disaster.” On January 11, 1919, Boston’s Daily Globe reported that “a cold air mass settled in.” The following morning, the mercury tumbled from 36 degrees to 20 at 2:00 p.m to 7 degrees at 10:00 PM to just 2 degrees. Crews from the ship Miliero pumped a half million gallons of molasses from its warm hold into tanks holding existing cold molasses causing a bubbling churn that vibrated the tank’s walls. Workers reported the walls were groaning. This process activated fermentation, aided by a temperature rise to 50. Then the top of the 58 foot tank blew and a 50 foot wave of 2 million gallons rushed over the streets killing 21, injuring 150. It was termed "America's most fascinating and surreal disaster...In closing, years ago, plane de-icing was randomly performed and is now a regimented, regulated procedure. On this date in 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the icy Potomac River, thirty seconds after takeoff from National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. The casualty count noted 78 deaths, including four who were in cars on the 14th Street Bridge. Weatherwise magazine noted that the National Transportation Safety Board determined the cause of the crash was the failure of pilots to abort the takeoff and for not activating anti-icing equipment. Ice on wings is dangerous because of additional weight and the loss of lift for the aircraft, causing drag on the aircraft’s body. A wing can lose 30% of lift with a small accumulation of ice.