Friday, January 16, 2015

The weekly read

Boston's great molasses flood of 1919
Mental Floss magazine

It was an unusually warm day for Boston on January 15, 1919. The day earlier, temperatures failed to get out of the single digits Fahrenheit, but rose to the mid-40's that day. The giant molasses holding tank at the Purity Distilling Company held 2.5 million gallons of sticky Puerto Rican molasses to be used to distill alcohol (for industrial purposes only, as prohibition went into effect just a few days later).
The aftermath of the molasses spill
What happened next was an industrial accident which today remains one of the most bizarre of all times. The molasses in the tank, its volume expanded by the suddenly warmer temperatures and the initial stages of fermentation, pressed against the steel tank, eventually rupturing. The ensuing 15-foot wave of sticky liquid killed 21, injured more than 150 and caused tremendous damage to the structures in the area.

While this event was certainly unique, and in today's world would probably create a number of humorous headlines, it reminds us that as public information officers, we need to be aware of the potential hazards of any incident, and that we have our information ready in the event something happens.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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