Catastrophe averted

Published 7:26pm Tuesday, October 8, 2013

WINTON – It could have been worse…much worst.

A natural gas line was accidently ruptured around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday by a contractor installing fiber optic cable under NC 45/King Street in downtown Winton. Fortunately, the equipment operator immediately halted his work, preventing what could have been a major disaster.

However, due to the extent of the repairs, NC 45 was forced to be shutdown. Barricades were placed at the US 13/NC 45 intersection. Traffic was detoured around the site by using Winton’s side streets (for smaller vehicles) and old US 13.

Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith said the contractor had taken all the necessary precautions prior to digging, which includes knowing the location of underground infrastructure such as gas, electric, phone, water and sewer lines.

“In some cases the information they gain as to the location of those lines is not exactly accurate,” Smith said. “Apparently that was case with this particular event.”

The severed gas line prompted the immediate closure of the Duck-Thru convenience store and Family Dollar store located adjacent to where the contractor was performing his work. Both stores remained closed throughout the day and evening on Tuesday.

“We knew the repairs would be a long-term event, so keeping that in mind along with the safety of the employees and customers of those two stores, the decision was made to close them for the rest of the day,” Smith said.

Those living in nearby residences were also made aware of the gas line rupture and warned to refrain from any type of outdoor burning.

“Fortunately the wind was blowing steadily throughout the day on Tuesday, that helped to disperse the gas fumes,” Smith noted.

The decision to close the road was made not only to allow Piedmont Natural Gas easier access to making the repairs, but also due to the large amount of traffic using the NC 45/King Street intersection.

“That intersection is especially heavy, traffic wise, with larger trucks,” Smith stated. “DOT really helped us out by erecting detour signs to help guide the traffic around that area.”

NC 45/King Street was closed throughout the night on Tuesday as repairs were made to the gas line.

“We contacted all the major industries that regularly use that route and informed them of the incident and let them know about the detour routes,” Smith stated.

Meanwhile, the incident did cause a few headaches at Rivers Correctional Institution, a private prison just west of Winton.

“They cook, and heat their water with natural gas and with the line cut off while repairs were being made it put a dent in their normal operation,” Smith said.

Thankfully, the natural gas is now flowing to the prison.

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