GAS LEAK: Evacuation order lifted in southwest Minneapolis

GAS LEAK: Evacuation order lifted in southwest Minneapolis


Residents are being allowed to return to their homes after a natural gas leak has forced an evacuation in a residential area of southwest Minneapolis on Wednesday.

Minneapolis fire crews and CenterPoint Energy went door-to-door in the eight-block area to evacuate residents as a precaution in the afternoon.

FOX 9 News confirmed that CenterPoint Energy officials were able to safely shut off the leak with a patch on the 6-inch natural gas main. Crews say the break was caused by a frost heave.

"It was reported by 911 to us as a smell of natural gas," Becca Virden, with CenterPoint Energy, told FOX 9 News.

The smell of natural gas lingered in the air for hours while firefighters used emergency radios to communicate reports of gas levels near 100 percent in one home.

"It was strong enough," said Elizabeth Leppart. "You know when you turn on your oven before the flame sets in? You can smell that gas. That's what it smelled like."

A second call claimed a candle was left burning in another, and it was soon followed by a report of someone who forgot to turn off the stove before evacuating.

"They just knocked on our door and told us to leave," recalled Stephanie Thurling.

It was an unpleasant awakening for Thurling and her son, Calvin, who was napping at the time. Their home was one of about 200 in the evacuation zone.

Firefighters began the evacuation as a precaution as the gas seeped into the sewer system, concentrating inside some homes at dangerously high levels.

"You don't necessarily smell anything. You don't necessarily see anything -- but the potential is still there," explained Minneapolis Fire Department Chief John Fruetel. "When you get that gas leak underground, that potential is there."

Crews opened manhole covers to vent the gas.

"They said that you can't go home and can't light a match," recalled Jennifer Barry.

The area extended from 39th Street West to 42nd Street West, from Upton Avenue to Zenith Avenue in the Linden Hills neighborhood. Warming busses were brought in for evacuees.

"I guess, originally, you always fear for an explosion," Leppart said. "My car was pretty much right on top of where it started."

No fires or injuries were reported.

According to the utility, service was not disrupted to any customers while crews contained the leak.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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