Gas leak forces evacuation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 2, 2004

WINTON – Approximately 400-500 people were evacuated, here Tuesday morning from the Hertford County Courthouse and nearby administrative buildings after a contractor working on the town’s sewer rehabilitation project accidentally punctured an underground gas line.

According to Emergency Management Director Charles Jones, the incident occurred at about 9:49 a.m. at the corner of King Street and Tryon Street in front of the courthouse and interrupted local government operations in county office buildings as well as superior and district court, leaving many stranded as they were unable to access their vehicles on the adjacent streets, which were blocked off until officials from North Carolina National Gas could clamp the pierced line.

Contractors from Ormond Utilities struck the two-inch gas pipe while trying to dig up the pavement to access sewer pipes as a result of incorrectly marked lines.

One town official commented that one line marked about six feet off from where it should have been, while the other was not marked at all.

Hertford County EMS, Public Works, Winton Fire Department all responded to the scene along with utility workers from Dominion Power who remained on hand in the event power needed to be shut down to tend to the situation.

&uot;All the attending personnel responded very quickly,&uot; said Winton Fire Chief James Broglin, who recalled a previous gas line break at the intersection of Highway 13 and Highway 158. &uot;If I remember correctly (on the previous incident), I believe it was four hours before the necessary personnel was at the scene ready to respond,&uot; he said.

On Monday, contractors scrambled to contain a smaller gas leak when their equipment hit another line, encountering the same problem on a lesser scale.

&uot;No one was seriously injured, but we did treat about 11 people on site for fume-related headaches,&uot; said Jones.

The incident comes within a month of the estimated date of completion for the sewer rehab project; however, it is not expected to significantly delay progress.