It’s one of the strangest tragedies in American history, the sort of thing that should only happen in fiction yet somehow happened in real life. On January 15, 1919 the North End area of Boston, Massachusetts a storage tank burst and a giant wave of molasses flooded out into the streets at 35 miles per hour. 21 people were killed and another 150 were injured. To this day residents swear that on hot days you can still smell the molasses in the air.
The event has become part of American folklore and a case study for engineering students. Bearly 100 years later there is still no consenus for why the disaster was so deadly, but a new study from Harvard though suggests that temperature played a large part in it. By studying the effects of cold weather on molasses, the researchers determined that the disaster was made more deadly in the cold winter weather than it would have in the summer season. When it first left the tank the syrup would’ve moved quickly enough to cover several blocks before the cold air thickened it into a hard sticky goo that left many residents trapped in it. Read more on the study in the New York Times.