Historic Occurrences – The Great Molasses Flood
Boston, MA: 1.15.1919 – Cylinder Stress Failure – The Great Molasses Flood, also known as the Boston Molasses Disaster or the Great Boston Molasses Flood, occurred on January 15, 1919 in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. A large molasses storage tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150. The event entered local folklore and for decades afterwards residents claimed that on hot summer days the area still smelled of molasses. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The disaster occurred at the Purity Distilling Company facility on January 15, 1919. The temperature had risen above 40 °F (4 °C), climbing rapidly from the frigid temperatures of the preceding days.
Molasses can be fermented to produce rum and ethanol, the active ingredient in other alcoholic beverages and a key component in the manufacturing of munitions.:11 The stored molasses was awaiting transfer to the Purity plant situated between Willow Street and what is now named Evereteze Way, in Cambridge.
At about 12:30 in the afternoon near Keany Square at 529 Commercial Street, a molasses tank 50 ft (15 m) tall, 90 ft (27 m) in diameter, and containing as much as 2,300,000 US gal (8,700 m3), collapsed. Witnesses variously reported that as it collapsed they felt the ground shake and heard a roar, a long rumble similar to the passing of an elevated train (coincidentally, with a line of that type close by), a tremendous crashing, a deep growling, or “a thunderclap-like bang!” [emphasis added], and as the rivets shot out of the tank, a machine gun-like sound.
The collapse unleashed a wave of molasses 25 ft (8 m) high at its peak, moving at 35 mph (56 km/h). The molasses wave was of sufficient force to damage the girders of the adjacent Boston Elevated Railway’s Atlantic Avenue structure and tip a railroad car momentarily off the tracks. Author Stephen Puleo describes how nearby buildings were swept off their foundations and crushed. Several blocks were flooded to a depth of 2 to 3 ft (60 to 90 cm). Puleo quotes a Boston Post report:
Molasses, waist deep, covered the street and swirled and bubbled about the wreckage … Here and there struggled a form—whether it was animal or human being was impossible to tell. Only an upheaval, a thrashing about in the sticky mass, showed where any life was … Horses died like so many flies on sticky fly-paper. The more they struggled, the deeper in the mess they were ensnared. Human beings—men and women—suffered likewise.