A four-inch natural gas service line rupture Tuesday afternoon near one of the busiest intersections in Hope forced the evacuation of one office building and traffic was rerouted by police away from West Third Street from Washington to Hervey streets for most of the afternoon.
CenterPoint Energy technicians with air quality monitors fanned out across West Third Street about 1 p.m. Tuesday, advising business owners and their employees of the leak and checking the ambient air quality from the intersection of Third and Hervey streets westward to Hope In Action in the 600 block of West Third Street.
Two units of the Hope Fire Department were called to block traffic at either end of the affected area and to standby in case of any ignition of the natural gas, according to Hope Fire Chief Dale Glanton.
Hope Police Department patrol officers directed traffic away from the affected area at West Third and Washington streets.
The offices of Home Hospital Health in the 500 block of West Third were evacuated shortly after 1 p.m., according to CenterPoint technicians on the scene. The offices of the Hope Star, immediately across West Third from the site of the rupture, remained open as a moderate breeze throughout the afternoon dispersed the gas westward away from the site.
“Natural gas is lighter than air and dissipates quickly into the atmosphere,” CenterPoint spokesperson Olivia Ross said Tuesday evening. “Our goal was to keep ignition sources away, which we did today as a precaution. At CenterPoint Energy, safety is always our top priority.”
Ross said the source of the rupture is under investigation by CenterPoint Energy.
“We will conduct a full investigation, which will determine the how and why of the leak,” she said. “Our focus toda was on safely repairing the line and returning the area to normal functionality.”
A special crew from CenterPoint Energy was brought to the scene to effect the repairs to the line, which was in a trench where sewer line replacement work was being completed by Bobo and Bain Construction for the City of Hope. Repairs to the line were completed about 3 p.m.
City Manager Catherine Cook said Tuesday the city responded immediately to the incident.
“Right after lunch, we got a call that Bobo and Bain, the contractor, had cut a gas line,” Cook said. “With the assistance of the Hope Police Department, Hope Fire Department, the city public works department and the gas company, it was taken care of safely.”
Ross said CenterPoint Energy advises anyone who suspects a natural gas leak, whether indoors or outdoors, to take specific precautionary measures.
“Leave immediately on foot,” she said. “Do not use electric switches, telephones, including cell phones, or anything that could cause a spark.”
Ross said that, upon arriving at a safe location, 911 should be called to report the emergency and CenterPoint Energy should be notified.
Page 2 of 2 - “Do not use e-mail or the Internet to contact the company about a leak, and never assume someone else has reported the leak,” she said.
Ross said neighbors should be alerted to the leak, and under no circumstances should anyone ever attempt to repair a natural gas leak themselves.
“Leave all repairs to a trained technician,” she said.
The company's toll free telephone number for reporting suspected leaks is 800-992-7552.