‘Get out of there:’ Residents unable to return home following Durham blast

April 11, 2019

Dozens of people were forced to run from their apartments after a gas explosion shook downtown Durham on Wednesday morning.

Two nurses, who work at Duke Hospital and UNC Hospital, were among those who had to leave their homes after a contractor struck a 2-inch natural gas line, leading to a gas leak and eventual explosion.

“One of my friends was at the coffee shop and the firefighter came in and said, ‘Everyone needs to leave right now,’ and five minutes later there was an explosion,” resident Melanie Ray said. “When you put it in minutes and faces behind things, you realize how big of an impact it is, how close to home it is.”

Ray and her roommate Kim Brumley, along with Ray’s dog Brave, weren’t exactly sure where they were going to stay Tuesday night. Police briefly escorted them back inside their evacuated apartment to pack some belongings.

“Really, we just grabbed stuff for three days. That’s what we were instructed. We’re not sure when we’re going to be able to get back in,” Ray said.

Brumley was inside the apartment when the explosion happened.

“I remember hearing the blast and feeling this gush of stuff flying across my face,” she said.

Brumley was not hurt by what she now believes was likely broken glass hitting her face.

“I’m not injured, I’m not even scratched, which I’m so thankful for,” she said.

Brumley called Ray, who warned her to leave the apartment immediately.

“She talked some sense into me and said, ‘You’ve got to get out of there,’” Brumley said of the conversation with Ray.

Like so many who live in Durham, Ray and Brumley got calls and texts throughout the day from people who were worried about them. They said being displaced from their home is the least of their worries and they are mostly concerned about the victims.

Dominion Energy said Wednesday night that a claims operations center has been set up at Maverick’s Smokehouse & Taproom at 900 W. Main Street to assist those who have been displaced from their homes as a result of the explosion. Agents will be on site until 11 p.m. and will return from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday.

In addition, Dominion Energy has established a 24-hour phone line at 877-592-7762.