Mike, Donald, and the two inspectors were half way between the track buses and Jason and me. “Mike, wait a minute,” I yelled and took a step toward them. “Have you noticed the absence of overburden concussions?”
The mountain answered my question.
The next few seconds were a blur. The abrupt violent jolt burst forth, and it sounded and felt like standing in thunder. It wasn’t like hearing thunder in the distance, instead standing in the crash of thunder as it occurred.
The mine floor where we walked transformed into a whip, like shock waves in an animated movie. I was lifted up and thrown with a forceful push of air current away from the longwall, which meant the air movement had reversed and was going the wrong direction.
Somehow, I managed to remain on my feet even though I was running while trying to keep my balance and stumbled over coal shaken loose from the coal pillars. Dust filled my lungs and I could not see in front or behind me. Dust was everywhere encompassing the entire area within the few seconds this occurred.
Then there was no air movement. It was like I was trapped in a vacuum, as though inside a snow globe someone had just shaken, except there was no snow, only black coal dust everywhere and pressure against my eardrums like being underwater.
I felt for my radio. “Robin, are you there?” I shouted. “Can you hear me?”
“Mark, what just happened? The entire building out here shook.
Mark, number four and number five fans are not running,” Robin screamed.
I could hear the fan alarms bellowing in the background of the security office as she talked. “Robin, listen to me. Contact everyone underground and tell them to evacuate immediately. Monitor your carbon monoxide sensors and advise escape by walking in the primary escapeway or by track depending on your readings. Call the number one portal and have them withdraw immediately, too. Get electricians to each fan and see if there is any sign of smoke, heat or fire before and after they restart the fans. Have the supply men at the top of each portal with a list of everyone underground to check off each employee as they exit. Have Bill Tolley or someone in safety to call the MSHA and DMME
A second shock wave assaulted me and stirred up more dust. This time the ground trembled but nowhere near as violently as before.
“Robin.” No reply. I switched to the emergency channel. “Robin, Robin can you hear me?” Either my radio had broken, or communication by radio to the surface was out.
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