"The ball of fire looked kind of like the one in Texas, the same thing," he said. "It went up probably 300 feet."

Explosions at a fertilizer plant last month in West, Texas, left 15 dead.

Scores of people on Twitter reported feeling a "shock wave" as far away as Canton, Pasadena and Bel Air. Small business owner Robert D. Wray wrote that it shook the windows on his condo in Fells Point.

A Patterson Park resident wrote: "Dogs and I all jumped. Neighbor said her curtains blew in!"

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Erin Cox, Michael Dresser, Jon Meoli and Lorraine Mirabella contributed to this article.


Notable Md. rail accidents

August 2012: Two teenagers sitting beside the tracks in Ellicott City were killed when a CSX train loaded with coal derailed and buried them in coal.

March 2010: Eight of the 60 cars on a CSX freight train derailed alongside Patapsco State Park, spilling plastic pellets and debris that took more than a month to clean up. No one was hurt.

December 2006: 100 homes near the border of Carroll and Howard counties were evacuated when a tanker carrying liquid ammonia derailed.

July 2002: 101 people were injured — at least six seriously — when an Amtrak passenger train en route to Washington derailed in Montgomery County.

July 2001: Sixty cars, some carrying toxic chemicals, derailed inside the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore, igniting an inferno that burned for days and stopped nearly all north-south freight traffic on the East Coast for almost a week. No one was killed or injured.

January 2000: A 15-year-old boy in Garrett County was killed when a train derailed and crashed through his home.