• Natural gas line ruptured near N. Ashe Ave. in Newton; evacuation order has been lifted

    Hickory Record

    NEWTON – A Piedmont Natural Gas transmission line was ruptured by a City of Newton water/sewer maintenance crew on Wednesday morning, forcing a mandatory evacuation of residences and businesses in the area.

    The gas line was struck at 9:52 a.m. in a wooded area off of North Ashe Avenue.

    The maintenance crew was working on replacing a manhole when it struck the gas line, a news release from the City of Newton said. The breached line was 4 inches in diameter. Piedmont Natural Gas indicated the line had possibly delivered gas to a former business nearby.

    Newton Fire Department Chief Kevin Yoder said the gas line was in a City of Newton sewer right-of-way. It is unusual for a gas line to run through a city sewer right-of-way and the crew was not aware the gas line was there, Yoder said.

    An area from Northwest Boulevard to Main Avenue and from West 21st Street to West 26th Street was evacuated. Evacuees were told to stay out of the area for at least two hours.

    Dorothy Barnes, 46, lives in the 300 block of West 21st Street. She said she was frightened when police officers knocked on her door and told her about the gas leak.

    “They said I needed to leave immediately and not come back for at least a couple hours,” she said.

    The City of Newton launched a reverse 911 call to alert area residents about the gas line break, reaching 296 homes and businesses, the release said. Newton firefighters also went door-to-door to notify residents of the evacuation.

    A Piedmont Natural Gas residential technician and transmission crew arrived at the site at about 11 a.m. and decided to access the line at a distance of 200 feet from the leak. The gas line was shut off by 11:45 and Newton Fire Department crews assessed buildings for residual pockets of gas.

    Yoder said all ignition sources near the gas line were eliminated and a breeze helped dissipate the gas.

    At noon, residents were alerted they could return to the affected area.

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