Tense Moments On Hwy. 71

CenterPoint gas crews, seen at center background, work to seal a broken four-inch gas line on Hwy. 71 South, just south of U.S. 59 Wednesday morning. A utility line crew split the line forcing the road closure and evacuation of nearby businesses as a precaution. No injuries were reported. Traffic was re-routed for more than eight hours.

A ruptured gas line on Hwy. 71 South near U.S. 59 Wednesday prompted evacuations as underground pressure buckled the roadway.

The line did not ignite when hit at about 9:30 a.m. and a soft wind helped mitigate the risk as crews attempted to shut down the leak.

The roadway was closed, however, through the evening as repairs were made.

“A crew hit an old unmarked gas line in front of the (El Campo) Auction Barn (1920 S. Mechanic). It pulled the old line away from the main causing a large leak,” Police Chief Terry Stanphill said Wednesday.

El Campo police and volunteer fire officials responded, shutting down the roadway and calling for assistance from the Texas Department of Transportation and CenterPoint Gas as El Campo Livestock, McCoys and El Campo Glass were shut down and evacuated as a precautionary measure.

With the roadway closed, no customers could reach the hardware store or continue south towards Danevang.

Westbound traffic was diverted onto CR 406 to FM 1163 while eastbound motorists were directed to FM 1163 via the frontage roads.

“The gas line was on the side of South Mechanic/Hwy 71. The gas started to come out in the middle of the roadway and the road was shut down and traffic was diverted around the scene,” El Campo Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy George Jr. said.

The fire department provided assistance until the gas line was capped and the escaped material dissipated.

Only one natural gas customer lost service as a result of the break, according to a CenterPoint spokesperson.

A portion of the firefighters were pulled from the scene at 12:24 p.m. when dispatchers received the report of a grass fire on FM 1300.

El Campo and Louise firefighters raced to the scene, but “it turned out to be a rubbish fire and burn ban violation,” George said.

“During the operation to control the leak, CenterPoint did some welding on the main four-inch line and we staged an engine near the operation just in case there was a fire. Thankfully no problems,” George said.

Fire crews finished operations shortly before 2 p.m.

El Campo police and sheriff’s deputies stayed to direct traffic there until evening hours.

“CenterPoint Energy crews responded to the natural gas leak and worked safely and efficiently to stop it. The leak was stopped at 2:45 p.m.; repairs were completed and the highway was reopened at 7 p.m., CenterPoint spokesperson Alejandra Diaz said Friday.

“CenterPoint Energy would like to remind everyone that prior to digging, no matter how small or large a project, homeowners and contractors should call 811 to request all underground utilities be located,” she added.

The utility crew was doing preliminary work for city of El Campo’s plan to extend water and sewer lines south of U.S. 59.

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