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Updated: Digger Strikes Pipe; Gas Leak at 58th and 2-1/2 Street

Residents began returning to homes about 3:30 p.m.

UPDATED: Residents began returning to their homes at 3:30 p.m. Thursday after crews shut off high-pressure gas that had been leaking from of a punctured 12-inch pipe at 58th Avenue and 2-1/2 Street in Fridley.

About 120 homes in the area have no gas service, according to Becca Virden, a CenterPoint Energy spokesperson. She said the company would be restoring service address by address this evening.

Crews were able to shut off safety valves that stopped the flow of natural gas under 10 pounds of pressure, Virden said. 

Police had evacuated residents within about a one-block radius of the leak-site, according to Lt. Mike Monsrud, after caused the leak at about 11-11:30 a.m. Thursday. Residents at 25 addresses were evacuated, Virden said, including some duplexes and four-plexes. 

It was an excavator that hit the gas main, according to Director of Public Safety Don Abbott. He said the gas was venting straight up into the air under high pressure. The wind was helping to dissipate the gas, he said.  

CenterPoint Energy crews were monitoring gas levels in area sewers, Abbott said, and Monsrud said Fridley Fire Department went door-to-door checking residences for gas buildup. Crews from Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View, Brooklyn Center and St. Anthony were also on the scene. At midafternoon, more than 20 police, fire, rescue and utility vehicles were parked along Third Street between 57th and 59th avenues NE. 

Evacuation
Residents sitting or walking along the perimeter of the evacuation zone said they smelled gas in the morning shortly before police began evacuations. 

"It's kind of crazy," said Dawon Ferguson, who left his house on foot at 58th and 2-1/2 Street with his niece and nephew, both 2, as soon as he smelled gas. "I was out of there, to the park," he said. The trio were strolling the perimeter that police set up around the leak scene. 

Ferguson did the right thing, according to guidelines from CenterPoint Energy. Walk, don't drive away if you smell gas, she said, because starting a car can also create a spark that could ignite gas in the air. 

It's expecially important not to use a phone inside, since a gaseous atmosphere can be more concentrated there, Virden said. Go outside to make a call on a cell phone instead. 

Food and Shelter
A Metro Transit bus and a Salvation Army truck parked at Third Street and 57th Avenue NE, behind the , provided evacuated residents with shelter, food and water. A second shelter area for high-school and middle-school students was set up in a room at the . 

As schools let out, buses let students out near at Third and 57th. At 3:30 p.m. about a dozen kids were outside the Metro Transit bus and another handful inside, with more arriving. Staff from the city's Park and Recreation Department were on hand, along with officers from the Fridley Police.

Monsrud said police reserves replaced patrol officers in the morning, with about eight from the department around the perimeter of the evacuation area and five more in the interior. 

Police arrested one resident for crossing their lines and not obeying their orders, Monsrud said. 

Three CenterPoint energy crews with construction and maintenance vehicles were on the scene, Virden said., trying to stop the flow of gas in two different locations. 

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