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Explosion halts business

By Bob Vandewater

April 20, 1995

Business activity throughout the downtown Oklahoma City area came to a halt shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday after the explosion that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, witnesses said.

William Wylie, manager of costing and pricing for Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., said windows were broken at the utility's former headquarters building at Dean A. McGee and Harvey, which is separated by one block from the Murrah 1 federal building.

OG&E's headquarters are now at 101 N Robinson, but the company still has some personnel offices at the company's old building.

Bob Anthony, a member of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, said he was at the offices of C.R. Anthony Co., 701 N Broadway, a few blocks from the federal building at the time of the explosion.

Anthony said he felt the shock of the explosion. He said it broke windows in the C.R. Anthony building and apparently was the cause of dents and damage to garage-type doors on the street level of the structure.

The headquarters of the corporation commission, in the Jim Thorpe Office Building southwest of the Capitol, remained open for about 1 1/2 hours after the downtown explosion. But commission General Administrator Jay Edwards instructed the building's personnel at about 10:30 a.m. to evacuate after Gov. Frank Keating told state office workers to go home.

Public hearings at the commission, which regulates utilities and the oil and gas industry, were interrupted in the middle of testimony by the evacuation orders.

The commission also has a division responsible for inspecting for compliance with natural-gas pipeline safety standards across the state.

Edwards said, "I talked to some of our pipeline safety inspectors and they are going to be involved ... and are going downtown to participate in the investigation" of the effects of the explosion on things like natural gas lines.

Elsewhere, Gene Thurman, owner of The Alternate Choice wholesale floral company two blocks away, said workers ducked under desks and ran as the ground shook.

"All I heard was a large explosion," Thurman said. "When I turned around, our ceiling was floating. It rung my ears. "

Most employees of local businesses were walking around holding their stomachs and begging to find out what happened.

"The lights flickered, then it rumbled," Wright said.

Saleswoman Cindy Waggoner said, "It vibrated the insides of you.

I'm trying to get rid of this feeling inside. "

Regency Towers resident Deanna Jordon, her sister-in-law and her 5-year-old daughter were inside their rooms at the high-rise apartment building a block east of the blast when the explosion occurred.

"I thought people doing scaffolding work were 1 coming through the windows until we heard the alarm saying evacuate the building," Jordon said.

"The walls are buckled and cracked. There's mortar coming off the outside of the building. "

Jordon's 5-year-old daughter, Melinda, was shaking as her mother held her close in her lap.

"I heard screams; screams and everything fell down," the 5-year-old said.

Staff writer Diane Plumberg contributed to this report.


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