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"Footage from the real Silent Hill" Centralia, PA

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Lisa Wolfe
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« on: June 20, 2014, 12:44:17 am »

"Footage from the real Silent Hill" Centralia, PA

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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2014, 12:51:59 am »

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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2014, 12:52:26 am »

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« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2014, 12:52:47 am »

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« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2014, 12:53:10 am »

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« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2014, 12:53:34 am »

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« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2014, 12:53:51 am »

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« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2014, 12:54:24 am »



The REAL Silent Hill (Centralia, PA) - FULL STORY
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« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2014, 12:55:08 am »

Saved From the Void

Photograph from AP

Hours after plunging into the Earth, Todd Domboski stares at the abyss that briefly swallowed him—a hole swirling with toxic gases from an underground mine fire.

On February 14, 1981, 12-year-old Domboski sank into a cave-in that ruptured the soil in his grandmother's backyard in Centralia, Pennsylvania, where an abandoned coal mine had smoldered for 19 years.

The Centralia blaze, still burning more than 50 years after it began, ranks as the worst mine fire in the United States. But it is by no means the only one. More than 200 underground and surface coal fires are burning in 14 states, according to the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

And with worldwide demand for coal surging, especially in industrializing nations such as India and China, mine fires have emerged as a global environmental and public health threat. Thousands of coal fires rage on every continent but Antarctica, endangering nearby communities. The blazes spew toxic substances such as benzene, hydrogen sulfide, mercury, and arsenic, as well as greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide. (See related story: "Seeking a Safer Future for Electricity's Coal Ash Waste.")

In Centralia, Domboski survived his 45-second ordeal by grabbing onto tree roots. He screamed for help until his cousin ran to his aid, reached into the void, and hoisted him out.

Many Centralia residents had long feared a calamity like the one that nearly unfolded that Valentine's Day. Four years earlier, Domboski's father had told a reporter, "I guess some kid will have to get killed by the gas or by falling in one of these steamy holes before anyone will call it an emergency."

—Joan Quigley

Joan Quigley is author of the 2007 book about Centralia, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy.

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

Published January 8, 2013
Smoke rises from a large crack in Pennsylvania Route 61, Centralia, 2010   
Hot Asphalt

Photograph by Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images

Vapors hover over a gash that has formed in a closed section of Pennsylvania Route 61, at one time the main north-south corridor through Centralia.

Once a boom town, like contemporary hamlets in the North Dakota oil patch, Centralia straddles vast anthracite coal reserves. Anthracite, the "hard" coal found in the United States only in northeastern Pennsylvania, fueled the Industrial Revolution. Well into the 20th century, it served as a home-heating source. But unlike bituminous or "soft" coal, which powers electricity plants, anthracite slid into obsolescence by the 1950s, as most consumers switched to home heating oil. Across the anthracite region, mines shuttered, coal companies retreated, and mine fires flared at the abandoned sites. (See related photo gallery: "Scavenging for Charcoal Fuel in the Rubbish of Manila.")

Just before Memorial Day in 1962, a fire broke out at the Centralia town dump, which sat atop an old strip-mining pit. The blaze ignited an exposed coal seam, swept underground into an abandoned coal mine, and advanced toward a residential neighborhood. Efforts to extinguish the fire began too late, and proved ineffective. By the late 1960s, toxic fumes started seeping into nearby homes.

In 1983, Congress appropriated $42 million to relocate Centralia. Many residents moved to nearby towns; some refused, opting to stay in their homes. Ten residents remain in the community today—five in the borough of Centralia and five in adjacent Coyningham Township.

Published January 8, 2013
Mine fire visible from a hillside in Centralia, Pennsylvania, 1983   
A Glimpse of Twilight

Photograph by Bill Douthitt, National Geographic

The mine fire scorches a wooded area near Centralia in October 1983, while a full moon glimmers over green rolling hills.

Bill Douthitt, then a graphic designer and photographer at National Geographic, landed in Centralia in early October 1983. For the next day or two, he spoke to residents and took photographs, capturing images for an article about the Susquehanna River region that ran in the magazine in March 1985.

While working in Centralia, Douthitt heard about a spot where the mine fire had punched through the surface, radiating steam and flames. As dusk approached, he drove toward a hillside east of town, parked about 75 yards away, and headed uphill, carrying his camera bag, his Nikon FM2 camera, and a tripod.

Up at the scene, he set up his tripod and waited, seeking the right balance between ambient light and twilight. A sulfur scent hung in the air, the mine fire's rotten-egg aroma.

As he finished the shoot, Douthitt—now a senior editor at the magazine—realized his tennis shoes had partially melted. He was alone. No one knew where he was. And if the ground collapsed beneath him, he'd be dead. "So let's leave," he thought. (Related: "Susquehanna: America's Small-Town River." The full text of this March 1985 story is available with an all-access subscription to National Geographic.)

Published January 8, 2013
Centralia, Pennsylvania, resident Mary Lou Gaughan surrounded by vents in 1983   
Steamed

Photograph by Bill Douthitt, National Geographic

Flanked by vents spewing emissions from the mine fire in October 1983, Mary Lou Gaughan bristled with resentment at the government's failure to put out the blaze.

Mary Lou and her husband, Tony, lived closer to the mine fire than virtually anyone in Centralia. As the combustion surged toward their backyard, they tracked, with mounting frustration, the government's ill-fated efforts to extinguish it. They knew contractors needed to dig out the burning coal and rock, deploying bulldozers and dragline shovels. But officials started late in Centralia—several months after the fire ignited—and never caught up. An experimental project also flopped: an initiative to smother the fire with fly ash, a residue of coal-burning power plants.

Gaughan, now 85, relocated to the nearby town of Ashland in 1993. "Of course, I was a die-hard Centralian," she said recently. "I'm happy now. I wasn't happy when I left."

For Douthitt, this image of a resident surrounded by fumes distilled the town's predicament. "You are always looking for something that would make the point," he said.

Published January 8, 2013
Steam escapes from Centralia, Pennsylvania, mine fire, 1982   
Clouded Future

Photograph by Leif Skoogfors, Corbis

Steam from the Centralia mine fire in 1982 streams skyward, as if pouring from a volcano.

For years, many Centralia residents worried about the possible health consequences of inhaling fumes from the fire. For some who lived near the blaze, gas samples taken by government officials revealed a litany of harrowing possibilities: low levels of oxygen; high levels of carbon dioxide; traces of carbon monoxide. In the early 1980s, several families lived with carbon-monoxide monitors in their homes, set to sound an alarm when readings spiked.

In the Gaughans' neighborhood, residents had reason for concern. According to test results from a federal laboratory, the carbon monoxide level inside the cave-in that Todd Domboski fell into had reached 1,154 parts per million, more than 30 times the federal government's recommended exposure threshold.

State officials still keep tabs on about 40 Centralia boreholes, though not as frequently as they once did, given the borough's population decline.

"We know as long as the fire is burning, the gases coming off have carbon monoxide in it," said Tim Altares, a professional geologist manager in Pennsylvania's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation.

Published January 8, 2013
Steam rising from the ground in Centralia, Pennsylvania, 2011   
Scorched Earth

Photograph by Nicolaus Czarnecki, Zuma Press/Alamy

A ribbon of steam trickles from the ground in Centralia in April 2011.

The Centralia blaze, now burning for more than 50 years, spans about 400 acres, according to Altares, the state official. The fire has spread beyond the borough and may, in some areas, be smoldering a few hundred feet underground. But even he can't forecast the blaze's future, other than to say it could burn for hundreds of years.

And in that fact lies a sobering message, for Centralia and coal-mining regions around the globe. The Centralia blaze is one of about three dozen active mine fires in Pennsylvania, according to Altares. A mine fire in Laurel Run, near Wilkes-Barre, has been burning since 1915, almost twice as long as the one in Centralia.

"The ones that are left are the tough ones, like Centralia," he said. "You address them in a number of different ways, but to actually put them out, that's the hard part."

Published January 8, 2013


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/01/pictures/130108-centralia-mine-fire/
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If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do. The smallest act of kindness can be the greatest thing in the world.
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