August 19, 2016 11:11 AM
Both directions of Interstate 94 at the Lowry Hill Tunnel have reopened after a broken gas line caused traffic to be diverted and surrounding buildings to be evacuated.
A CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman says a third-party contractor hit a 16-inch gas line on Lyndale Avenue in the area of Hennepin Avenue and I-94 about 11 a.m. Thursday.
I-94 was closed both eastbound and westbound in the area, blocking access to the Lowry Hill Tunnel for several hours.
The interstate reopened shortly before 2 p.m.
When the leak was initially reported, crews received natural gas readings of 25 percent Lower Explosive Limit. Within 15 minutes, those readings rose to 40-90 percent in the tunnel, so the interstate was closed and the Walker Art Center and nearby churches were evacuated as a precaution, fire crews say.
Had the lines not been shut off when they were, the natural gas levels inside the Lowry Hill Tunnel could have reached the explosive limit within minutes.
"I'm thinking in the next 10 minutes we probably would have gotten there if not less," Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said.
"Our greatest concern is anything that can cause a spark. That can be a cellphone, that can be a car," said Rebecca Virden with CenterPoint Energy.
Virden says 75 percent of natural gas leaks are caused by third party damage. Basically, it's construction crews accidentally hitting a line.
The difference here is most lines are only half an inch to an inch wide as opposed to this massive 16-inch pipe
CenterPoint will handle the repairs but then bill the contractor responsible for the cost of the work, she said.
Updated: August 19, 2016 11:11 AM
Created: August 18, 2016 12:37 PM
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