Leaking dynamite forces evacuation in Lone Lake neighborhood

A dozen residents of the area north of Lone Lake were evacuated for several hours Wednesday as Navy explosives experts disposed of an old container of leaking dynamite.

The dynamite was disposed of safely through burning, and there was no explosion and no injuries, officials said.

The dynamite, about 40 sticks estimated at about 15 pounds and in an old metal ammunition canister, was found by a 28-year-woman out for a morning walk in the woods behind her parents' home in the 4400 block of Lone Lake Road, Lt. Evan Tingstad of the Island County Sheriff's Office South Precinct said Thursday.

He said Kristen Aley picked up the locked container and carried it to the shop near the home of her parents, Bill and Sue Aley. The Aleys managed to pry the lid open, and discovered the dynamite.

Tingstad said most of the sticks were wet, and much of the dangerous nitro glycerine had separated from other elements of the explosives, and had leaked out and crystallized.

"When that happens, it becomes very unstable," Tingstad said. "It's a very dangerous situation."

When the Aleys saw what was in the box, they called the sheriff's office about 9:45 a.m. Tingstad then alerted the explosive ordinance division at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, which dispatched a six-member disposal team.

About 1 p.m., occupants of about a dozen homes along Lone Lake Road, Parkwood Drive and Pleasant Place within a 1,000-foot radius were evacuated, and residents of another 20 or so homes were urged to open doors and windows to minimize possible concussive damage in case of an explosion, Tingstad said.

Roads in the area were closed, and an engine company from Island County Fire District 3 stood by in case of fire or injury, he said.

The explosives team, in heavy protective gear, maneuvered the box about 60 yards to a deep hole dug with a backhoe. The dynamite was placed gently in the hole and burned with a chemical fuel, Tingstad said.

Evacuated residents began returning to their homes about 3 p.m., and the entire area was declared secure about 5 p.m., he said.

Johnny and Rosalie Dingle, both 85, who live on Parkwood Drive, were among those told to evacuate.

"When they said we better get out, we were the first one's out," Johnny Dingle said.

"We were just saying the day before that we were living in a nice, quiet neighborhood were nothing ever happens," he added.

Tingstad said the dynamite was a number of years old, and was probably left over from when the area was cleared of trees and stumps.

He cautioned anyone making a similar find to leave it where it is and call 911.

"It's one of those situations that could've gone very badly, but didn't," he said.

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