The investigation into Monday night's, gas pipeline explosion could take weeks, if not months to get to the bottom of what happened. A preliminary inquiry started by the company that operates the line will likely lead to a federal investigation by the Department of Transportation, which is common in cases like these.
The images from Monday night's explosion came from eye-witnesses across the region as flames were visible for miles. The rupture is the latest reminder of Kentucky's place along the route between the Gulf Coast area that produces the most gas and the largest consuming area made up of the upper midwest and New England. That means thousands of miles of natural gas lines run through Kentucky.
Over the years, gas explosions have rocked central and Eastern Kentucky. In 2004, flames shot 100 feet into the air when an explosion in Perry County killed three. A few months later that same year, a pipeline failure injured nine people and destroyed five homes in an Ivel subdivision.
Metcalfe County saw one of the worst pipeline disasters in 1985 when a gas explosion killed five people, flattened buildings, and left a 20-foot deep crater. In each of these cases, investigations can take months to determine what caused the failure. Authorities often issue a corrective action order like the one that followed the Ivel explosion and outlined safety steps.
As those in and around Estill County wait to learn what caused the blast seen around the region, they may look to the past to try to predict what to expect in the future.
Columbia Gulf Transmission and Storage operates the pipeline that exploded Monday. A company spokesperson says its two other lines that run through Estill County show no indication they were damaged in the blast.