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Explosion lifts and drops home with elderly resident inside

LAKE CONROE- An explosion beneath a lake area home on Saturday lifted the structure in the air and sat it back down, with the elderly resident still inside.

Miraculously, 77-year-old Katherine Rice was not injured. The same cannot be said of her home.

Nothing about the incident in the 2100 block of Kings Court was typical. Even Assistant Fire Marshal Scott Burlin was amazed at what he found.

“It was quite an explosion,” Burlin said. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and this was the first time I’ve seen this occur where there was an explosion underneath a mobile home with enough force that it picked the mobile home up and dislodged it from its cinderblock footings and set it down on the ground.”

Rice said it was around noon when she was watching TV and kept hearing a bumping sound under her doublewide mobile home. She thought it might be a possum she had seen outside a few days earlier, but no such luck.

“All of a sudden, boom! And it threw me out of my chair,” she said. “I got up to look and see what was going on – I thought maybe it was something in the neighborhood.”

She tried to go out a door and found it would not open, so she phoned son Michael Wall who was in Houston at the time. Wall told his mother he would get someone over to check things out.

She then went to her master bathroom and saw the toilet was pushed out of the floor and sitting askew. About that time, Rice saw fire around her water heater. She ran to her patio door, which she was able to slide open.

“I ran out my patio door and said ‘somebody come help me, my house is on fire’ and the young man behind me came over,” Rice said.

She dialed 911, which brought the Lake Conroe Fire Department, MCHD EMS and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

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Amazingly, medics found Rice’s blood pressure at a normal level, possibly because of where she once lived. Rice was a Californian for 12 years, living on the San Andreas Fault, and became accustomed to earthquakes. She said it crossed her mind when the explosion occurred that it felt like an earthquake, but that was impossible.

Oddly enough, the toilet and other fixed objects were moved, but wall clocks and collectibles on shelves remained in place.

LCFD stopped the flames, and Centerpoint Energy responded and shut off the gas.

Burlin said it appeared to be a “natural gas explosion in the void space” beneath the mobile home.

“The pilot light of the water heater was the ignition source,” Burlin said. “The gas leaked, it filled the void space and it found an ignition source.”

Centerpoint was scheduled to do more testing, Burlin said. The home is expected to be a total loss.

A few hours after crews left the scene, firefighters were dispatched again to extinguish a small flare-up, which was the last to call to the home on Saturday.

Looking through the pouring rain at her displaced house, Rice was focusing on the positive, saying she was glad to be out safely and that was what really mattered.

Rice and Wall praised the swift response by the fire department and how they were treated by all of the agencies.

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