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Gas leak prompts evacuations in downtown Raleigh

Posted May 19, 2010

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— Police closed downtown Raleigh streets for several hours Wednesday and asked about 160 people to evacuate several buildings because of an underground gas leak at South Wilmington Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Streets reopened and people were allowed back inside the affected buildings shortly before 2 p.m.

Raleigh Fire Division Chief Frank Warner said danger associated with the leak had passed. Repair crews continued to work on the ruptured 4-inch gas line underneath Wilmington Street.

A contractor drilling for a cable line struck the line around 9 a.m., authorities said, and the leak was capped at 11:06 a.m., PSNC spokeswoman Angie Townsend said.

Downtown Raleigh evacuation sends workers to streets Downtown Raleigh evacuation sends workers to streets

Hazardous materials teams were sent out to monitor the spread. Underground leaks, in particular, Warner explained, can spread unpredictably, so a large evacuation was required.

"The concern is, obviously, explosion," Warner said. "This has a tendency to migrate throughout in different directions in underground channels. It moves through the sewer system, electrical vaults, phone vaults, things of that nature, any underground structures."

The gas vapors migrated north toward downtown, prompting police and firefighters to evacuate Shaw University Center and nearby buildings. Residents in the area did not have to leave their homes.

Shaw University asked all its employees to leave, and up to five dozen people were asked to evacuate the Progress Energy Center.

"One of the maintenance fellows came in and said, 'You have to leave the building.' So we got up and left. It wasn't frightening," said Deborah Nelson, an employee of the North Carolina Symphony.

Wednesday's gas leak is the third in the area in recent months.

On April 17, a gas leak caused by crews cleaning a sewage line prompted the evacuation of a Shaw University classroom building and 10 homes in a nearby neighborhood.

On Feb. 15, a construction crew hit a natural gas main, closing Martin Luther King Boulevard and Blount Street.


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  • MillerB May 19, 2010

    EyesintheSkies- Riminds you of the 8 years of the Bush administration, doesn't it?

  • NoFreakinWay May 19, 2010

    looks like a short sweat for Meekerville.

  • NoFreakinWay May 19, 2010

    I sure hope no Meekerville Events have to be canned. What a tragedy that'd be!

  • verburger May 19, 2010

    I'm just curious as to why PSNC evacuated one building on Salisbury St. but left three others. And conitnued to blocked off the street for safety measures, but left people in those buildings unable to come and go without a huge hassle. Makes no sense.

  • 5-113 FA Retired May 19, 2010

    Maybe the contractor thought the yellow hash marks painted on the ground meant, "dig here."

  • EyesintheSkies May 19, 2010

    Is the Legislature back in session? Gas, hot air, steam, a strange odor? Just saying............

  • JustAName May 19, 2010

    hmmm, might be a reason not to keep all of your eggs in one basket. For example, having all the emergency services in one building downtown.

  • 5-113 FA Retired May 19, 2010

    WRAL's Amanda Lamb saw firefighters pull up one manhole and smoke billowed out of it.

    Really Amanda? Smoke? What color? Could it have been steam, dust, or what?

  • spoonman May 19, 2010