Pat Shingleton: "Pooch in the Basement and Exploding Molasses"
Preparations will be needed for the approach of a squall line, targeting our area at 9:00 AM Saturday morning. In our younger years, there was excitement at the approach of a snow storm. Our dog, Pooch, was an outside dog but when the temperature dropped and the snow was flyin’ he went from the dog house to our basement for the night, next to Uncle Emery – there for other reasons. Another treat were the North Sewickley Township snowplows. The eight foot embankment in front of our house, at a 45 degree angle, was where you got the best blast. We would await the snow plow, settle into the snow covered embankment and once the plow scrapped the road, we were covered – with three feet of snow. Saturday 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 p.m. slipping even further to 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 advanced to vibrations within the walls of the tanks. 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 and injuring 150.
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