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Leaks shut down several blocks of downtown area

Lines for two major utilities ruptured on Wednesday afternoon, bringing a good portion of the downtown area to a standstill.

In this situation, the rupture of a water line and a gas line were most definitely related.

Public Works Director Chad Birdsong said that crews had already been out on Wednesday, fixing a water leak on Thompson Avenue, but another leak was called in around 3:30 p.m. near the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Penn Street.

“A four-inch water main broke, and we had a two-inch gas main approximately four inches away, paralleling it,” Birdsong explained on Thursday. “The gas main also was bored through three old 8-inch clay tiles. The rushing water mixed with the shards of broken tile and rocks, and basically sand-blasted the plastic gas main until it ruptured.”

So what started as a public works project suddenly involved emergency workers, as well.

“The fire department responded to a reported odor of natural gas in the area of Broadway Avenue and Penn Street at 4:07 p.m.,” said Fire Chief Kent Cantrell. “Police officers patrolling the area had noted a
potential water leak at the location, and when they stopped to identify the location of the leak, they noticed the odor of natural gas.”

When the fire department arrived, water was bubbling from the ground near the northwest corner of the intersection of Broadway and Penn. In addition, there was a visible vapor coming from the ground.

“Crews immediately began checking buildings in the area for the presence of natural gas using gas detection monitors,” Cantrell continued. “As a precautionary measure, the occupants of all structures in the 200 blocks of Broadway, Excelsior and Foley streets were evacuated.”

Missouri Gas Energy arrived on the scene at 4:49 p.m., and Cantrell said fire crews remained there until the gas leak was located and repaired. The firefighters cleared the scene at 8:49 p.m., about 20 minutes after most of the evacuated residents and business owners were allowed to return to their homes or shops.

Cantrell said several officers from the Excelsior Springs Police Department assisted in the evacuation process and provided foot and vehicle traffic control throughout the duration of the problem.

Birdsong said after the gas line was fixed, public works crews continued their efforts and had the water leak fixed at about midnight. Flushing continued through the night, wrapping up at about 9 a.m. Thursday.

No injuries were reported.

By Eric Copeland • eric@leaderpress.com

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