County Sees, Hears, Smells Biggest Gas Leak In 15 Years - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/22/05-Smith County

County Sees, Hears, Smells Biggest Gas Leak In 15 Years

A major natural gas leak this morning is continuing to make a lot of noise and let out odors, just south of Tyler.

The Smith County Fire Marshal's office is calling it the biggest gas leak in the county in the last 15 years.

The gas line rupture happened on Highway 155 S at the intersection of Mockingbird Hill, also known as County Road 159.

Fire officials say it all started when a construction worker ruptured the pipeline with a trackhoe because he failed to find out if there was a gas line underground.

You could smell it and hear it blocks away. And it wasn't hard to find exactly where the gas leak happened.

"I've heard them rupture before," Mel Morgan, a nearby business owner, said. "You just hear a pop and then you hear that loud rush sound that you hear in the background right now. Very, very loud."

Morgan owns a manufacturing business at the intersection. He sent home all of his employees and closed for the day. So did two other businesses nearby.

"Our next-door neighbors were beating on our door and said the fire department had told everybody to get out," Helen Riddle, a homeowner on Mockingbird Hill, said. "And that's all we know, and to shut off all of our gas."

Mockingbird Hill is downwind from where the gas leak happened. So the street was blocked off, and everyone in the 10 to 12 homes there was evacuated this morning as a precaution. But soon after, everyone were allowed to go home.

"The gas is rising above us and dispersing and is not really as bad a hazard as we first envisioned when we first arrived," Oren Hale, assistant fire marshal, said.

CenterPoint and later, Atmos Energy crews have been working to shut off the main valve and fix the rupture all day, while others couldn't work.

"Had a lot to do today," Morgan said. "That's the way it goes."

The law requires underground gas lines to be marked to alert construction crews. But the Smith County Fire Marshall's office told us, in this case, the pipeline was put in 40 years ago, so that law didn't apply.

No one's gas service was affected because the line feeds gas to other lines in the Dallas area.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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