DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — Crews have been able to cap a gas line break that forced the closure of US 290 in Hays County Wednesday morning.
Around 9:30 a.m., an emergency notification was sent to residents in the Hays Country Acres subdivision in the 1600 block of East Highway 290 in Dripping Springs to stay in their homes after a contractor punctured a major gas line. Initially, emergency crews told homeowners to evacuate but then an hour later said they can stay in their homes.
“We just want to limit access to this thing, you never know, we just want to keep everybody back a safe distance,” said North Hays County Fire Chief Scott Collard.
Neighbors within eyesight of the punctured gas line could hear the line spewing gas for hours.
“I took my dog out to walk this morning and I heard a sound that sounded like someone drilling through rocks,” said Dripping Springs resident Margaret Foster.
“I heard this noise; it was like a jet engine taking off,” said Barton Creek A/C part owner Eddie Quine. Quine says he was doing paperwork in his office when he first heard the sound.
“I ran out and I could see the guy jump off this machinery and was running and I realized what had happened, so I called 911,” said Quine.
According to Chief Collard, the contractor struck an eight inch line that was pushing gash through at 250 PSI. “When our first engine company arrived, they had rocks and debris shooting a couple of hundred feet into the air,” he said.
US 290 was shut down in both directions for about three hours at Hays County Acres Road, which is less than 1 mile east of Ranch Road 12, as crews worked to contain the leak. The gas line belongs to Texas Gas Service.
The electricity in the area was also shut off, in fears of creating a spark.
“The wind is helping us disperse the fumes, but the wind also had a tendency to cause some problems with power lines. Sparking or arching might take place,” said Collard. “We don’t want any of that to happen, so the less ignition the better everyone is going to be.”
Emergency crews said the gas in the line was turned off at about 1 p.m. and the highway opened shortly thereafter.
There are no threats to the public. Texas Gas Service said that repairs to the gas line will still take several hours before the gas can be turned back on in the area.
Lowden Excavating hit the line, according to the Fire Department and company. Lowden has been in operation since 1982, according to its website.
Both the contracting company and Texas Gas Service say the gas line was marked. One of the owners of the excavation company tells KXAN they thought the line was 10 feet deep, but their crew hit it at four to five feet deep. Texas Gas Service says when the line is marked, you should not dig there, regardless of depth.
Lowden has had just a single instance of hitting a gas line in the past. According to Texas Railroad Commission records, a Lowden employee hit and damaged a Centerpoint Energy gas line in Kyle on Arbor Knot Drive on July 18, 2011. A worker “nicked the pipe with a digging bar,” the RRC report states. Nobody was injured and the incident was closed.
The Texas Railroad Commission says it will be investigating this case.