Gas leak locks down part of East Austin

The sound of gas escaping could be heard Thursday morning as emergency crews dug into Second Street. Stopping the leak was complicated because the pipe was metal.

Sealing it required hydraulic tools.

The process, according to AFD Assistant Chief Larry Jantzen, can be delicate. "In a way it is, because we don't want to create any type of spark in the area, and we have a rescue team in place with a charged hose line, so we could apply water immediately if something would occur where somebody may fall in the hole because of heat exhaustion or if we actually get an ignition," said Jantzen.

Investigators say a contractor working on Second, near Mildred Street, cut the gas line around 9:30 this morning. It happened directly across from the Santa Rita Courts housing complex.

Among those told to stay inside were Ahalam Andttan  and her three children. For them the sound they heard was about as frightening as what they saw. "The noise, a little bit, the noise," said Ahdttan.

An evacuation order was initially considered.

But the gas was being released at such a high rate, it was decided not to pull people out.

"The accumulations were getting in an area immediately around the leak were not at an ignitable mixture, it was an ignitable mixture much higher in the area because the pressure was high enough to force that gas up to where there are no ignition sources," said Jantzen.

The line was clamped around 11:00. All the activity, at first, didn't cause Shannon Adams to worry. Adams said no one came to her door to tell here about the threat, and she would have appreciated a heads up. "I would have, yes of course. Just to inform me even though they wanted us to stay inside, just to inform me, I would have wanted a knock at the door," said Adams.

As repair work continues, emergency officials want residents to stay on their guard.

"If they smell something and the gas company is out there, they shouldn't be alarmed because there might be a small leak during the repair process, but if the gas company is through with the fix, they go away, and they still smell gas, call 911, we will come out and check it with our monitoring instrumentation to make sure we don't have a leak at the repair sight or another leak that may have occurred during the digging operation that we are unaware of under the ground," said Jantzen.

Officials with Texas Gas Service are doing a formal review into what happened.  

A spokesperson for the company said a final report is expected to be filed within 30 days.