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Fire on the Plaza: JJ's Restaurant in Kansas City Burns to the Ground!
JJ's disaster area
Living just downwind of the Plaza, the sight of smoke last night from this area was disturbing for me.
Last night, as I was leaving my house at 6:15 for an appointment just northwest of the Plaza at 6:30, I noticed a dark cloud stretching over the house. A second look told me it was smoke; there was a slim chance someone was burning leaves in the middle of the city and I thought someone's house must be on fire. A house across the street from us had burned down about a year ago and I hoped it wasn't as serious as that one.
As I took off in my car and began driving down Brookside blvd, I could see the smoke coming from somewhere around the Plaza--very strange! Once I got up to Ward pkwy though, the skyline opened up enough I could see a thick, black plume billowing heavily on the North side--my first fear was one of the high rise apartment buildings was on fire! I flipped stations on the radio until I ran across Darla J giving the run down on what was going on...turns out JJ's Restaurant on 48th pretty much exploded and had completely burned down to the ground!!
I have never been to JJ's, but I've driven by it a number of times, and it was actually on my route to my weekly appointment. I'm not sure of the exact time of the blast, but it freaks me out to think that if I had left the house just a few minutes earlier, I could have been driving past when flames suddenly burst into the street! Wow, you really never know what sort of unexpected danger might come your way or what unlikely event might occur when your number is up (not to make light of the moment, but going out in a fireball on an uptown street would be way more epic than say, dying from natural causes).
A tower of flame!
Once I turned onto Ward, the traffic was really bad. Rubber-neckers and diverted traffic was causing a huge slow down and I knew I wasn't going to make my appointment on time. The smoke at this point was just unbelieveable. So thick and fast, even though on the radio they said the majority of the fire was out. People living nearby called in to the radio show to describe a huge blast that was completely deafening and shook their houses severely. One woman said she truly thought a truck had hit their house and went outside to check and all they saw was a HUGE fireball overtaking 48th street. What started the monster blaze apparently was a contractor inside the restaurant struck a gas line and a monumental explosion occurred that collapsed the roof of the restaurant and created a fire that extended high above the building and out into the street. From what I heard, they must have known before the blast occurred that something was very wrong because they had time to tell patrons and staff to leave the restaurant, but a few staff members were still left inside when the explosion happened, though I don't believe anyone died that I know of.
Eventually, I drove past Roanoke where I could see the site of the blast and though I could only see part of the scene for a half second, I noticed there was no building left, just black rubble on the ground with flames still inching over the top of it. There was literally nothing left. JJ's was completely obliterated.
A sobering scene for sure, and I'm amazed only 2 people were critically injured and no deaths as far as I know right now. The local TV news covered it all night, all other news and TV shows were cut for the evening. People are the area kept smelling gas and the gas company had to keep going around and assuring everyone that they didn't have a gas leak, it was just wafting over from the disaster area.
The tragedy was so horrible it has now made national news. I wonder now if JJ's will ever rebuild or what will be done with this site after the whole mess is over.
Did anyone here have personal experience with this disaster? Did you see the explosion or the fire or know someone who was involved?
Update: As of February 20, 2013, investigators determined there was one death in the JJ's explosion when they discovered the body of 46 year old Megan Cramer in the rubble. This was truly the most tragic part of this disaster as it sounds like Ms. Cramer was quite a part of the community.
Update as of February 2014: The Missouri Public Service Commission was supposed to release a final report on the gas explosion at JJ's that killed one and injured several others by December of 2013, but that has now been delayed until sometime in February of 2014. The commission gave no reason for the delay, but at this point, the report will now come out almost a full year after the blast last year on Feb 19th. Missouri Gas Energy is the entity that has been under investigation as it was their activity of boring underground that damaged the pipeline that ultimately led to the explosion. You can read more details about the final report here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/12/30/4720513/final-report-on-fatal-jjs-blast.html (See link below).
JJ's has reopened and has a new website!
- JJ's Restaurant – Country Club Plaza Restaurants in Kansas City – JJ's
Just 18 months after the fire, JJ's reopened in the Polsinelli building, not far from the original location on the Plaza. Though the old place and former coworker who lost her life will stand in their memory forever, they carry on triumphantly.
Links connected to the blast coverage.
- Final state report on fatal blast at JJ’s restaurant delayed until February - KansasCity.
Investigators with the Missouri Public Service Commission have put off until February the release of their final report on the fatal natural-gas explosion Feb. 19 at JJ’s restaurant near the Country Club Plaza. No reason was given for the