Mason County News
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Letters to the Editor - A Public Forum
Propane Accident
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 • Posted August 29, 2012


Many times after an unexpected event one begins to wonder what if ... What if that propane tanker transport had blown up when it turned over on the Square, what then?

I was sitting in the Topaz Bakery having a lively discussion with a friend (solving many of the world’s problems) when that accident occurred. I didn’t think much of the event as it occurred because I was still just engrossed in my conversation.

Then the County Judge in an animated manner suggested / told us to get out of the area - quickly! He later suggested to me that the explosive equivalent of 9,000 gallons of propane gas is over 200 Tons of TNT. To give you an idea of what that means - many of the bombs in WWII were 500 pound bombs that had an explosive force of about 220 pounds of TNT; a 5 gallon bottle of propane (like we use with our gas barbeques) (if it would explode) has the explosive force of over 250 pounds of TNT. I think that the force of 200 Tons of TNT might have leveled the square - that is the “What If” I started thinking about after the event.

I and many others would have been instantly dead - wouldn’t have felt a thing, but death would have occurred because an individual trucker with Hazardous Cargo (HC) was in a hurry. Lots of people do die because of the actions of others when they were just doing their thing, but that doesn’t give much comfort to those who are left behind or those who were maimed or injured in some manner because they were also close.

What might have prevented the accident in the first place: a driver taking each of the curves around the Square at a speed that was safe - namely slower. A slower posted speed on the Square might encourage drivers with HC to slow down and make the Square a safer place to be. But that would mean that all of us would have to slow down if you believe in the rule of law. It is all a trade off - some will say that they are willing to live with the risk, and others will say that slowing down (even for ourselves) is worthwhile.

I know that as a newcomer to Mason (9 years), I support slowing down on the Square - the extra minute to go from Dollar General to the Post Office at 30 MPH vs 45 MPH is not a cost of time that is to me worth the risk of another major accident on the Square that might have catastrophic consequences for someone. Further, it does not take Hazardous Cargo or a freight truck to endanger people or property. Any vehicle that travels at the current allowable speed on the Square can pose a significant risk to pedestrians trying to navigate the Square.

But those are just my thoughts - each of us needs to think about the trade-off. The road and the Square are a community resource, and we’ll have to come to a ‘political’ decision of whether to stay with the status quo or make an adjustment to the speed limits for the roads into and out of the Square. We will all be impacted no matter what the decision, and there will be a risk profile associated with the decision. I ask you to think about it because the decision that is made and implemented is important to the entire community.

Ron Freytag

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