Molasses spill creates sticky mess

GERING, Neb. -- A tank containing more than a million gallons of molasses ruptured and a flood of the sticky substance carried away four vehicles, destroyed a small building and covered three workers from head to toe.

The reason for Wednesday's rupture of the tank at the Western Sugar Co. terminal was unknown Thursday, factory manager John Sagasar said. Workers continued cleaning up the mess.


'It's like water all over the ground except its about 10 times thicker,' he said.

The 1.2 million-gallon tank ruptured about 4:10 p.m., sending a 10-foot wall of the molasses smashing into a nearby building where three employees were inside analyzing beet samples.

Vernon Dyer, 45, and Russell Dilley, 69, both of Gering, and Gloria Thompson, 45, Mitchell, were completely covered with the substance. They were treated for cuts and scrapes at Regional West Medical Center in Scottbluff and released.

The force of the molasses flood destroyed the building, pinning Dilley and Thompson in the structure. Dyer, who was washed about 100 feet west, struggled back to his co-workers and freed them from the rubble.

'I just heard a big rumble,' Dyer said. Then, 'everything just busted loose.'


'I've never been in an avalanche but it seemed to me that what it would be like. You're trying to get up out of it but it's coming over the top of you and pushing you down and you keep trying to struggle to get up. You don't want to be drowned in molasses,' Dyer said.

Scotts Bluff Deputy Sheriff Jack Medearis said four vehicles parked near the building were carried about 25 yards to the west and northwest. All were extensively damaged.

Chief Deputy Floyd Wilke said most of the 600,500 tons of molasses spilled remained on the property of Western Sugar, but some spilled onto a nearby road. City crews built a dike to keep the molasses from entering a storm sewer.

On Jan. 15, 1919, a large tank filled with 2.5 million gallons of molasses exploded, letting loose a giant wave of molasses that within seconds submerged two city blocks in Boston's North End.

The Great Boston Molasses Flood killed 21 men, women and children who either drowned or suffocated as they were swept out into Boston Harbor or overcome by the thick, sticky goo. Horses tied to carriages never had a chance, and houses were torn from their foundations.


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