Disasters such as, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, volcano eruptions, snow blizzards, ice storms, large fires, and many others are quite common. There is one disaster that took place in Boston in 1919 that is very likely the only one of its kind.
In 1919, a 58-foot-high, 90 feet wide cast iron tank loomed over Boston's North End. The tank held 2.2 million gallons of molasses and burst, sending a tsunami of the sticky liquid down Commercial Street at 35 miles-per-hour, destroying houses, commercial buildings and a part of the elevated railroad. Chunks of metal flew everywhere, piercing into people and buildings for hundreds of feet around.
The burst tank sent out a blast of air that pushed people away. But seconds later a counterblast rushed in to fill the vacuum and pulled them back in. However, most of the damage was caused by the molasses itself. It splashed onto city streets in all directions, speeding faster than a man could run.
Envision a disaster scene with smashed buildings, overturned vehicles, drowned and crushed victims, and terrified survivors running away covered in molasses. Like the modern-day disasters with which we are unfortunately familiar, there was chaos, terror, buildings in ruins, victims to be dug out, trapped survivors to be rescued, rescue workers among the victims, and anguished families rushing to relief centers to find their relatives. It was like any horrible disaster scene, with the addition that everything was covered in smelly, sticky brown molasses. The molasses smashed freight cars, plowed over homes and warehouses and drowned both people and animals. A three story house was seen soaring through the air as well as a huge chunk of the shattered vat that landed in a park 200 feet away.
Rescuers were bogged down in the stuff and were scarcely able to move as the molasses sucked the boots right off their feet. The dark brown sticky stuff filled cellars for blocks around and it took months for it to be pumped out. Salt water had to be sprayed on cobblestone streets, homes, and other buildings because fresh water would not remove the stuff. For months afterwards, wherever people walked, their shoes stuck to the goop. Some people claimed that on a hot day one could still smell molasses even after thirty years.
Imagine, if you will, a genealogist finding a death certificate for a relative that died in Boston in 1919, and the cause of death was "Asphyxiation by molasses." Wouldnt that throw them for a loop?