Students, faculty and staff were forced to evacuate Mount Airy High School after a utilities company ruptured a natural gas line in front of the school.
At about 9:45 a.m. on Monday, authorities got word a work-crew from Utility Line Construction Services, a Duke Energy subcontractor, had punctured a gas line directly across the street from the main entrance to the school, according to Fire Chief Zane Poindexter.
Poindexter said his department immediately alerted the school, and everybody in the school was safely evacuated to the football field.
Though students and staff saw about a 30-minute break in the day’s class-schedule, Poindexter said it was quickly determined nobody was in harm’s way.
“We set up a perimeter and laid out our hoses,” explained Poindexter. “Natural gas is lighter than air, so it usually dissipates into the air quickly.”
Poindexter said that is precisely what happened. Workers from Frontier Natural Gas had “a very quick response time,” and turned the line off upon their arrival.
Firefighters then did one more sweep of the school to test for natural gas in the air, said Poindexter. None was found, and fire department personnel told school administrators it was safe to bring people back into the school.
After firefighters cleaned up and left the scene, workers from Frontier and Utility Services remained on site, blocking the portion of North South Street in front of the school to all traffic.
Josh Wagoner, an operations supervisor for Frontier, said the mishap resulted in no disruption of natural gas services to Frontier customers. The gas line would also likely be fixed by the end of the day Monday.
Workers from Utility Services indicated they had been at the site to replace a utility pole when they struck the gas line.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.