Natural gas leak forces nearly 250 people to evacuate in Wake Forest

Wake County News

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) — A natural gas leak evacuated nearly 250 people and five businesses in downtown Wake Forest Tuesday morning.

“It was pretty deep underground, and what we think happened was that a construction crew may have pierced the line doing some underground boring,” said Wake Forest Communications Director Bill Crabtree.

No one was hurt, but gas leaks can be deadly, like the one in downtown Durham. A contractor was boring under the sidewalk in Durham and struck a gas line that led to a massive explosion that injured dozens and killed one man instantly.

“There’s a lot of construction going on and a lot of it’s underground,” said Justice Everett, President of ABE Utilities. “All of the telecom providers are updating their systems and Verizon, AT&T and Google are here for a while, putting in extensive underground fiber networks to accommodate the demand.”

Everett says when they’re getting ready to dig, the first thing they do is call in a notice of excavation. Facility owners then have three days to clearly mark their lines.

“The gas company is always yellow,” Everett explained. “The power company is always red, the telecoms are orange, water that’s blue. So, once those are painted then you have an idea of what facilities are in the footprint that you’re gonna excavate.”

Everett says the number one reason gas lines and other facilities get hit is that they aren’t marked. The other issue is human error.

“We have to dig with care,” Everett said. “We have a responsibility to be careful as we can.”

He says the demand has also increased. In 2018, they had over 468,000 locate requests in Wake County. Compare that with 2019 where they had over 550,000 requests.

“If you have 20 percent more locate requests, you’ve got to have 20 percent more people to fulfill those requests, and that’s a hard thing to do in today’s market,” Everett said.

Everett says the first thing they do when they hit a gas line is call 911. He says it’s always best to evacuate.

“The tragedy over in Durham has defined that evacuation is the prudent thing to do because they had 30 minutes before the catastrophe over there to evacuate the buildings,” Everett said.

Everett says 25 percent of the damages are usually from people not calling in a notice to excavate.

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