High-rise evacuated as HFD responds to gas leak in downtown Houston

HOUSTON -- After four hours CenterPoint Energy crews stopped a major gas leak Friday in downtown Houston.

The four-inch steel line was hit by a construction crew just before noon.

The Houston House Apartments located at 1619 Fannin was partially evacuated at 12:05 p.m. and a shelter-in-place was in effect for others remaining.

Hernando Carbajal knew it was trouble, he said the natural gas hit him so hard it almost knocked him out. The backhoe he was using to cut the street on Pease hit the 4-inch line sending the high pressure natural gas blowing two stories high.

Jorge Castillo and his construction crew were working just a few feet away.

"We jumped off the fork lift and came over here," Castillo said.

He said it sounded like a hurricane.

"You could see it and you could hear it big time," he said.

Fire crews worked first to both plug the leak and get people out of the Houston House Apartments.

Eight-year-old Maggie Kovacs was startled by the alarm.

"The fire alarm started going off and it was like really loud," she said.

Like many residents they left quickly.

"We left our dog in there," she said.

Several dozen residents had nowhere else to go but the curb across the street. They stood waiting for more than two hours before a Metro bus arrived to give them some shelter.

Plenty more like Roy Torres just found somewhere else to go.

"I went down to the lobby to check my mail and they said you got to get out. So here I am trying to kill some time," he said.

Time is exactly what it would take to get the line fixed, a full four hours.

A 4-inch main might not seem like much but under pressure it can carry a significant amount of natural gas and that is why crews evacuated the 600 unit building to make sure that no dangerous pockets of gas would cause any problems.


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