Gas line rupture forces business evacuations

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 14, 2008

WESSON – Officials said an unidentified truck pulling a flatbedtrailer effectively shut down the downtown area for over an hourFriday after the vehicle over a gas line and started a leak thatcaused several area businesses to have to be evacuated.

Wesson Police Chief Chad O’Quinn said the line, located justbehind Wesson Ace Hardware, was a high-pressure gas line, whichmeant once it had opened up, it was spewing large amounts of gasinto the air. The leak went active around 10:30 a.m., officialssaid.

“We had to evacuate the hardware store and the surroundingbusinesses,” O’Quinn said. “We cleared out every business onHighway 51, south of Wesson Shopping Center.”

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Hardware store manager Van Graham, who is also a Wesson alderman,said as soon as they heard about the gas leak, employees in hisstore took precautions.

“We immediately closed the doors and turned off the lights andthrew the breakers,” he said.

Copiah County Civil Defense Director Randle Drane said the streetsin the affected area were also shut down to insure against randompassers-by who were unaware of the situation driving into thecontaminated areas.

“Then we monitored the wind conditions,” he said.

The Wesson Volunteer Fire Department set up roadblocks on the mainroads surrounding the affected area.

O’Quinn said traffic was allowed to pass through going north andsouth on Highway 51, but that Factory, Spring and Church streetswere all closed down.

The leak was contained a little before noon, when CenterpointEnergy workers were able to plug the line.

Affected store workers and owners were allowed to return to theirbusinesses shortly thereafter, though officials said there wouldstill be repairs to be made. Drane said the next step would be toreplace the meter.

“We just appreciate the cooperation of the citizens and businessowners down here,” Drane said. “They did exactly what they weresupposed to.”

Ace Hardware was also recently affected by some violent weatherthat came through on June 25. The store sustained damage fromstraight-line winds, including a front window that blew out andparts of the roof that were torn off.

Graham said it seemed like a lot of out-of-the-ordinary thingshappen to Wesson Ace Hardware.

“Short of an earthquake or a flood, it seems like we’ve hadeverything,” he said.