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2 Murray giants taking a final bow

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By the time you read your paper this morning, the biggest news event of the day will most likely be over: The Murray smokestacks will be gone, reduced to a heap of brick, mortar and dust in just 14 seconds.

The stacks, which have towered over the city since the early part of the 20th century, are set for demolition at 9 a.m. sharp. Only a lightning storm could delay the event, demolition expert Eric Kelly said Saturday after setting the charges that would topple the stacks. Detonation wire was strung Saturday afternoon.

"But it would only be (delayed) until the storm passed," said Kelly, who, as vice president of the demolition company, has personally presided over 400 such events involving stacks.

As the clock strikes nine this morning, onlookers can expect to hear and see the following, Kelly said:

First a firecracker-type crack. Then a good, loud 110-decibel boom as charges detonate in the larger, 455-foot high stack to the north. Three seconds later, the same scenario repeats in the 295-foot southern stack.

Both structures should then heave northward at a five-degree slant before crumbling to the ground into two 100-foot-wide trenches dug to catch debris.

"It's pretty straightforward," said Kelly, who admits that even after 20 years in the engineering demolition business, he still gets a charge out of bringing something down. "We have a blast."

Murray officials want the public to experience the event from their living rooms. Police planned to shut down State Street between 5300 South and Vine Street (4900 South) and 5300 South from State to 300 West at 6 a.m. A police perimeter around the stacks was set up Saturday afternoon.

"Stay home and watch it on TV," Murray detective Rob Hall said Saturday. "That's really where you are going to get the best view."

Most local television stations planned to feature live coverage of the demolition beginning around 8:30 a.m. Public television station KUED planned to broadcast a documentary about the stacks at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Smokestacks like Murray's were once a common part of the industrial landscape in American cities. The Murray stacks, which were part of the former American Smelting and Refining Co., were believed to be the last such stacks standing in the United States.

Removing the stacks to make way for the proposed $100 million Chimney Ridge commercial-retail development has taken more than a year. Laced with arsenic, asbestos and lead, the stacks presented a serious environmental risk to the public and required a removal plan approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, which delayed the project.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Greene ruled against a last-minute federal lawsuit by a citizens group to keep the stacks standing. Greene said that with demolition work already begun, the stacks posed a greater risk to the public standing than if they were demolished.

E-mail: dobner@desnews.com