Gas Leak Forces Evacuations And Detours Traffic - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/19/02

Gas Leak Forces Evacuations And Detours Traffic

A broken gas line closed a busy stretch of Popps Ferry Road and forced evacuations Thursday morning.

Construction crews working on the road widening project accidentally hit a natural gas line.

The ongoing roadwork on Popps Ferry already includes a long term detour and a sea of orange barrels. The broken gas line simply added to that mess.

It happened at Popps Ferry Road and Tommy Munro Drive, near the entrance to the Biloxi Commerce Park.

Dozens of evacuated State Farm employees hurried to safety during a sudden downpour. Their claims office is directly across the street and down wind from the gas leak.

Biloxi police kept traffic away from the ruptured gas line. Officers directed drivers at Cedar Lake and Popps Ferry. Emergency crews only, including the utility company, were allowed access. All others were kept a safe distance away.

"This is a temporary thing right here. There's a gas leak right down the road sir," a Biloxi officer explained to a frustrated motorist.

Colleen Bazata was trying to get home after a long shift at work. She lives in Cypress Lake apartments. The leak was directly in front of that complex.

"There's nothing I could do. They said you can't even walk in. The gas leak is at the entrance of the complex. It doesn't have anything to do with the complex. But they won't let anyone in," she said.

Evacuated employees from the State Farm office passed the time outside a nearby shopping center. At first, they didn't realize the extent of the emergency.

"One of the adjusters was teasing. He said the fire department's out here, we're going to have to evacuate. And then he found out what he thought was a joke was the truth," said Marianne Broadus.

Utility crews made quick work of the repairs. In just over an hour, traffic resumed and insurance employees headed back to the office.

No one was injured in the accident. But there were a few tense moments. The startled construction worker who hit the high pressure gas line jumped off his heavy equipment, which was still running. Workers did manage to safely turn it off.

By Steve Phillips

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