Gas line break prompts evacuations

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2007

Several nearby homes and Cornerstone Preschool were evacuatedwhen a gas main at Second and Willard Streets was breached duringroutine line repairs by Centerpoint Energy Wednesday around 10:30a.m.

“They were repairing a leak and had a faulty well that gaveloose,” said Centerpoint Area Service Representative TimWilliamson. “We were able to get it under control within 30 minutesand the leak has since been repaired.”

The smell of the natural gas and the noise as the gas pouredfrom the line were noticeable throughout the neighborhood.

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“It was a six-inch feeder main that fed the bulk of Brookhaven,”said Williamson. “With that much volume, there’s about 40 pounds ofpressure coming out of there, it’s going to be pretty loud.”

Several streets were blocked off by police as the crews workedto fix the breach. Residents of nearby homes were asked to relocatebriefly, and Cornerstone Preschool evacuated 115 students to anearby skating rink as a safety precaution.

Cornerstone Preschool Director Katherine Richardson said theywouldn’t have been aware of the break if she hadn’t been told byBrookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson, who came to the schoolhimself.

“What happened when the main line broke, Pap Henderson came overand told us we should evacuate,” she said.

Henderson said he didn’t think there would end up being anyextreme danger. But with lives at stake, it wasn’t worth taking anychances.

“I felt it was under control, but still wanted the kids out ofthere for safety reasons,” he said of the evacuation. “The workersover there did a great job handling the kids.”

Williamson said he was grateful for the quick response fromBrookhaven’s police and fire departments, and he was proud of hisown people for their quick thinking and hard work.

“Thanks to the fire department and the police department forhelping us out,” he said. “They were there immediately after theygot the call and really helped us by being on the scene. And wemanaged to get it under control pretty quick, which was great.”

Fire Chief Bob Watts said his men were standing by forprecautionary measures, because while a natural gas break doesn’tpose the threat propane does, it’s still a danger to those in theimmediate area.

“I’m glad we were able to help them,” he said. “I’m glad it wasunder control and we didn’t have to do more. But we were glad to bethere, and just tried to help by keeping people away so they coulddo their job.”

Henderson said he felt the overall teamwork of those at thescene contributed to the success of the safety effort.

“We appreciate what the Centerpoint people did, and the LincolnCounty Sheriff’s Department for offering their help,” he said. “Itwas a team effort and everything worked out good. And my guys did afantastic job getting to the intersections and keeping the peopleout of the work area.”

Both the police and fire departments do routine training on whatto do in emergency situations such as this one.

“We’ve been to classes put on by the gas and electric companiesso we know what to be aware of in this kind of emergency,” saidWatts. “It’s our job to make it as safe as we can for thepublic.”