1971 : Lake Huron Water Supply Explosion

December 11, 2021 all-day

Port Huron MI Water Tunnel Explosion Memorial.jpg

On Dec. 11, 1971, a shotgun-like blast claimed the lives of 22 men working on a water intake tunnel beneath the bed of Lake Huron. A pocket of methane trapped within a layer of Antrim shale fueled the explosion. An exhaustive inquiry determined that drilling for a vertical ventilation shaft from the lake’s surface had released the trapped gas. A drill bit that fell ignited the gas. The blast created a shock wave with a speed of 4,000 miles an hour and a force of 15,000 pounds per square inch. Witnesses reported seeing debris fly 200 feet in the air from the tunnel’s entrance. This tragedy resulted in stronger mine safety regulations and enforcement. It was one of the deadliest industrial accidents in Michigan history.

Sources :

Lake Huron Water Supply Project – Tunnel Explosion, Michigan Historical Markers website.

Remembering Those Who Died

James Graham, Lou Mleczko and James Tittsworth, “In Michigan history: Deadly Lake Huron tunnel explosion“, Detroit News, September 17, 2016

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