06/10/08 — Gas line rupture forces 50 in MO to evacuate

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Gas line rupture forces 50 in MO to evacuate

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 10, 2008 1:58 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A ruptured gas line forced the evacuation of about 50 people from businesses and houses near the Bobby Denning Shopping Center on North Breazeale Avenue Monday morning.

No injuries were reported and persons were allowed to return after about one hour.

Mount Olive firefighters were called to the shopping center shortly after 10 a.m. when a town work crew struck the gas line with a backhoe while digging to replace a water line.

Town Manager Charles Brown said that the crew was digging in an area that was about four feet away from a sign warning of the location of the natural gas line.

The town crew was working in the area behind the old Advance Auto store near N.C. 55. That section of the shopping center also includes a Hispanic grocery store, a Movie Gallery and laundromat all of which were evacuated by Mount Olive police.

The main portion of the shopping center as well as some houses located behind the shopping center were evacuated as well. About 50 persons were affected by the evacuation, Mount Olive Police Major Brian Rhodes said.

Also evacuated were the staff and animals at the Mount Olive Animal Hospital just east of the shopping center on N.C. 55. The animals were taken to the air-conditioned shop of veteran Mount Olive Rescue volunteer Anthony Kelly.

Mount Olive firefighter Greg Wiggins said the line appeared to be about two inches in diameter and that the escaping gas sounded like a "jet engine."

Wiggins said that Piedmont Natural Gas, which operates the line, responded quickly and had a crew on the scene to repair the line within 30 minutes.

Wiggins said that a light breeze was blowing away from N.C. 55 and the McDonald's at the intersection of N.C. 55 and North Breazeale Avenue.

The wind's direction meant that the McDonald's did not have to be evacuated and that N.C. 55 did not have to be blocked off, he said.

"We kept people out of the shopping center," Wiggins said. "We took gas readings on 55 and kept an eye on the wind direction," he said. "Police were on the scene and we asked them to handle the evacuation."

Wiggins said that since the incident occurred during the workday that there had not been a "lot of people to contend with."

He said firefighters from Mount Olive, Smith Chapel and Calypso were on the scene for just under two hours.

"We were lucky," he said. "We came prepared for the worst and fortunately the worst didn't happen."