Firefighters respond Feb. 27 to a house explosion in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, Mich. One man died. / Andre J. Jackson, Detroit Free Press
DETROIT - An explosion that was felt miles away leveled a house north of Detroit on Wednesday afternoon, killing one person, shaking homes, shattering windows and frightening neighbors.
The Oakland County medical examiner's office did not immediately release the man's name and age.
"It was a horrific explosion," said Robert Crowley, 64, who lives down the street from the house in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak.
Consumers Energy crews had been working in the area earlier in the day, although it was unclear what caused the blast, utility spokeswoman Debra Dodd said.
The explosion, reported just before 5 p.m., shattered the windows of cars, houses and some businesses. More than 30 homes were damaged, Dodd said.
Crews shut off utilities to nearby houses Wednesday night. The company is paying for people whose homes were damaged to stay at a motel in Troy.
The name of the person killed in the blast was not released Wednesday. Neighbors said a man lived alone at the home.
Crowley said the blast woke him from a nap. He went outside and saw "just all wood where the house was, lumber on the lawn."
He said a house on one side of the explosion site was on fire and a portion of the home on the other side was severely damage.
"It sounded like a 155mm howitzer going off about 100 yards away," said Dan Jones, 67, who has lives four doors down from the house since 1984.
Jones and other neighbors said they had seen Consumers Energy crews working in the neighborhood in recent days.
"Basically, they were putting a new gas main line under the sidewalk, and then they were going to be tying into each house," he said. "They were here working until about 4:30 this afternoon, with all their trucks and their digging equipment."
As Jones spoke, firefighters doused the last of the flames that had been burning in the basement of the leveled home.
Kate Sikora, 24, who lives two houses down, was contemplating dinner with her boyfriend when she heard the explosion and felt a shock wave. The windows in their house broke.
Royal Oak City Commissioner David Poulton said his house three blocks away shook with the force of the explosion. He walked to the scene, where he described seeing one house leveled and the houses on either side badly damaged.
"There was smoke everywhere, and pieces of the house for blocks around," he said.
Jessie Lennon, 18, was driving with a friend near the house when the force of the blast jerked their car to the side.
"It sounded like a bomb had gone off," she said. "After that we looked up, and there was just an explosion so far up in the air. It was like flames, debris and smoke, like so high up."
She and her friend parked and walked to the scene.
"It was terrifying," she said.
Allison Kolesky, who lives more than a mile away in Birmingham, said she heard a bang and thought a tree had fallen on her house under the weight of snow.
Kolesky, 37, said she yelled for her two young sons because "I thought they broke something."
She went outside and found other neighbors looking around, wondering what had happened.
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