Major Gas Leak in Free Union Forced 61 Homes to Evacuate

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September 9, 2014

61 homes and several residents were forced to immediately evacuate their homes after a pipeline gas leak forced all of Free Union Road to shut down.

"Suddenly I heard a lot of loud noise and I thought it was coming from my own furnace and when I went outside I heard it even louder," said Howard Miller. "So I drove up the road and saw that this gas or midway station was spewing something into the air."

The eventual smell would be one of gas. Nearby resident Howard Miller immediately called emergency services, who before his call hadn't heard anything about it. 45 minutes later he went to check on it again.

"I bumped into the fire and police folks and they said don't go back there it's a gas leak, and is anybody at the farm, and I said my wife was and so I called her and she evacuated north," he said.

It was around noon when Albemarle County Emergency Services were notified and when they arrived said it sounded like a jet engine with gas blowing out and across the ground causing a vapor cloud.

"I heard a sound for about half and hour before I got the call from the emergency communications center and the sound was a very very loud hissing rushing sound," said Walter Finley.

All of Free Union Road was shut down for about an hour until they finally stopped the leak, which happened right next to the front yard of Mike Smith, who wasn't home at the time it happened.

"I was stopped down at Chatterton Road before I could enter this road and stayed for about 30 minutes I guess, until the problem was resolved," said Smith.

Once the leak stopped, Columbia Gas told Mike they would need to begin digging in his front yard.

"They said that there is some type of corrosive action on the pipes and there is a risk down the road of a rupture of some sort," he said. "So this is preventative action to stop this from happening, and of course that's what I'd like because I don't want my house blown away," he said.

Columbia Gas officials said it would take about 2-3 weeks to fix the broken pipe.

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