Corvettes worth $1M trapped in buildings that crumbled during Houston warehouse explosion

HOUSTON — A Houston car restorer was anxiously awaiting a chance to visit his business, in the wake of Friday’s deadly explosion at a separate business in the city’s northwest corner.

The early morning explosion Friday, Jan. 24 at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing damaged other buildings up to a half-mile away and took the lives of two Watson employees.

Gordon Andrus’ restoration business, Houston Corvette Service, occupies two buildings directly across the street from Watson Grinding.

After Friday’s explosion, he told CNN that his buildings were destroyed and he wasn’t sure of the condition of the cars that were undergoing restoration. He noted there were about 15 cars worth about $1 million collectively inside.

Andrus wasn’t at his shop during the explosion but he described the blast as what he called a shaped charge, which focuses the force of an explosive.

“The charge blasted across the street, right over our buildings, and then on into the neighborhoods, where you’ve heard about all the houses that have been damaged,” Andrus said. “The rest of the street had very minor damage, but my two buildings are flattened. I don’t think [the cars are] destroyed, but the buildings will have to be torn down, so the question is, what do I have to do to shore the building up enough to get them cars out of there, and what’s it going to take to repair the cars?”

Andrus’ 25-year-old business occupies four buildings in total, only two of which were destroyed. Two buildings further down the street are for paint and body work, and they were intact after the blast.

Andrus said he was hopeful he’d be able to recover his computer, account record, and payroll information. With authorities investigating, he had no access to any of it.

“Then I can pay my guys, start getting things organized,” he said. “As soon as I get in there, we’re gonna move the operations to my paint shop.”

Andrus contacted all of the affected customers. He owns a few cars that are trapped inside, as well, but he said he wasn’t concerned about them.

“Every car is insured, and we’re in the business of repairing and restoring cars,” he said. “We will make it right one way or another.”

An investigation into what caused the blast was underway and expected to take months, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. In addition to destroying buildings and killing two, the explosion left some residents temporarily displaced.

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