Gas leak in St. Paul evacuates 12 buildings

gas leak st. paul.jpg
KSTP
Reports are still coming in of the smell of natural gas throughout the area.
A large natural gas leak on the Central Corridor in St. Paul this morning resulted in street shut downs, building evacuations and over a thousand XCel Energy customers without a pilot light this afternoon.

While it did not reach the same proportions as the South Minneapolis fire ball incident last week, the smell of gas hung thickly in the air along University Avenue.

This morning, XCel Energy crews were working on a gas main along the Central Corridor in relation to the light rail expansion. At 10:52 a.m., a cap on the end of the pipe came off and created "blowing gas," according to XCel spokesperson Tom Hoen. He says although nothing hit the pipe, crews knew about the problem immediately.

"You'll notice it right away when the gas is blowing," he says. "It's exactly what it sounds like."

So much natural gas was pumped into the air that passersby could smell it. In total, the fire marshal evacuated 12 buildings near the corner of University and Snelling Avenues. They also shut down the street to traffic.

By 12:58 p.m. the gas was shut off. Repairs on the cap have already started and Hoen says the company hopes to be able to turn it back on as soon as possible. Then comes the tedious task of relighting pilots for 1,200 affected customers. He says they hope to finish by this evening.

The fire marshal said the concentration of gas was never high enough for an explosion like the epic wall of fire that occurred at a CenterPoint leak last week.

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