Buildings, roads reopened after gas leak; Atmos crews repair damage Thursday afternoon
Jan 31, 2013 (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
University Avenue was reopened to traffic and businesses received an all-clear from fire officials some five hours after a gas leak prompted evacuations for much of the morning and afternoon.
Crews repaired a ruptured gas line around 3:30 p.m. Thursday and restored service to businesses after a construction accident that forced first responders to evacuate several business and close roads at Glenna Goodacre Boulevard and University Avenue.
Marinda Heinrich, public affairs manager for Atmos Energy, said Atmos crews cut off gas flow about 1 p.m. on the broken, six-inch line spewing gas at 50 pounds per square inch of pressure.
The gas leaked with such force crews had to dig a hole several meters down the line to expose the pipe and insert a plug, she said.
Fire crews went building to building checking gas levels in the air before allowing occupants to return.
Advanced Communications, a contractor for the city of Lubbock, accidentally punctured the line while working to install fiber optic cable for traffic communications upgrades, city spokesman Jeff McKito said in a statement.
No injuries were reported.
Loveless said emergency crews evacuated several nearby businesses including City Bank, Starbucks, FedEx and Plains Capital Bank as a precaution.
The gas didn't pose much of a hazard to residents and businesses more than a block away from the leak because it dissipates in the wind, which gusted above 25 mph Thursday morning.
"In a case like this, the wind is our friend because it keeps the gas, which is lighter than air, from settling," he said. "It's going to be stinky for awhile downwind of the leak."
Heinrich said she did not know if the construction crew notified Atmos prior to digging Thursday morning, but praised the company for contacting Atmos as soon as the rupture occurred.
She said Thursday's accident is a reminder for anyone planning to dig near gas lines to call the 811 hotline.
"As you can see, it's vitally important to the safety of everyone around," Heinrich said.
The leak prompted Texas Tech and Citibus officials to temporarily reroute campus bus routes that travel along Glenna Goodacre Boulevard and University Avenue according to Chris Cook, a spokesman for the university.
Classes and other university operations were unaffected.
Texas Tech sent emergency alerts to students and others on campus urging pedestrians and drivers to avoid the area.
Ramirez Charter Elementary students at 702 Ave. T -- half a mile from the leak -- were not at risk. Administrators and campus police assessed the situation earlier, according to Nancy Sharp, a spokeswoman for the Lubbock Independent School District.
At Lubbock High School, administrators told students not to visit any restaurants near 19th Street and University during their lunch break.
(A-J reporter Ariel Kirkland contributed to this report.)
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