An investigation continues following an explosion that ripped through several homes in South Philadelphia on Thursday. Neighbors on the 1400 block of South Eighth Street heard the thunderous boom and felt their homes shake just before noon. Officials assumed there were a pair of deaths, as rescue efforts ended on Thursday night. Recovery efforts begin this morning, and we will continue to follow this developing story.

We also take a look at the not-too-distant future — in cartoon form. My colleagues on The Inquirer’s opinion team assembled a collection of cartoonists to illustrate the major themes that will dominate the local and national conversation in 2020.

Firefighters battle a fire after an apparent explosion in the 1400 block of South 8th St. in Philadelphia on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Firefighters battle a fire after an apparent explosion in the 1400 block of South 8th St. in Philadelphia on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.

An explosion ripped through multiple homes on Eighth Street in South Philadelphia, causing a number of them to collapse while leaving residents trapped in the rubble. As authorities searched into the evening on Thursday, officials announced that two people were presumed dead.

Multiple calls came in just after 11:30 a.m. to report the explosion and the smell of gas. About 60 people were evacuated from their homes.

Area residents said the blast could be heard from blocks away. One woman said it shook her house so forcefully that her son was thrown from his bed. In response, Philadelphia Gas Works shut off service to several nearby homes but did not confirm that the blast was gas-related. An investigation is underway.

As we all prepare to flip the calendar to 2020, The Inquirer’s opinion team wondered what topics will dominate the conversation next year.

So, they enlisted area cartoonists to take a stab at illustrating some of those themes. Their wide array of artistic creations about Philly touch on everything from potholes to gun control, and artisan pizza.

And it doesn’t stop at Philly’s borders. The package also includes pieces from cartoonists across the country who offer an early glimpse into what the nation will be talking about in 2020.

After two years of property assessment increases and resulting tax hikes for hundreds of thousands of Philadelphia homeowners, property values should remain mostly the same for 2021.

The Kenney administration decided this month not to complete a planned reassessment. The city’s director of finance, Rob Dubow, said the method the city planned to use would not have resulted in accurate numbers.

So, instead of reassessing values for properties, the values assigned for 2020 will “carry forward” to 2021. But that will not be the case for all residential properties. Certain ones will still see new assessments.

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Kendall Coyne Schofield (left) and Hilary Knight (right) are among the stars of the 2018 Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. women's hockey team who will play at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees.
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