UPDATED Gopher Stops Train By Chewing Gas Pipe in Coon Rapids

No one was hurt; trains resumed running once crew shut off gas.

Update (9 p.m. Thursday): BNSF train traffic was halted for almost three hours Tuesday night, according to a railroad spokeswoman cited in a Star Tribune article about a gas leak caused by a gopher or gophers gnawing on a plastic pipe in Coon Rapids.

Update (10 a.m. Wednesday): Yes, a gopher stopped a train on the BNSF line that runs through Fridley Tuesday night. But just one. BNSF Railway spokesperson Amy McBeth, via email Wednesday morning:

We received a report of a gas leak and a request to halt train traffic. It resulted in just one train delayed.

Original post (10:21 p.m. Tuesday): A Coon Rapids gas leak Tuesday evening caused by a gopher chewing a plastic pipe briefly halted train traffic along nearby tracks that also run through Fridley. 

That's according to Centerpoint Energy and reports on Anoka County Emergency Dispatch radio.

"He was just chewing through the ground and he went through a gas line," said Centerpoint spokesperson Rebecca Virden, who added that it has been "years" since Centerpoint's last gopher-chew gas leak.

The recent, unseasonably warm weather might have something to do with it, she said: "Spring is really early. It's warm. They're active."

A crew at the leak site near where Northdale Avenue NW crosses the BNSF railroad tracks confirmed that the leak resulted from damage to a small plastic pipe from a gopher, according to Centerpoint spokesperson Rebecca Virden.

Centerpoint learned of the gas leak at about 6:30 p.m. after someone called 9-1-1 to report a gas odor in the area, Virden said.

Rail traffic stopped until the gas was shut off, according to Anoka County Emergency Dispatch radio.

Digging to reach the leak could not proceed, Virden said, until the repair crew was cleared by Gopher One Call, which tracks multiple utility locations in Minnesota.  

By 8:45 p.m. the repair crew had shut off the gas, informed authorities so railroad traffic could resume, and expected to have the leak fixed within an hour, Virden said. 

No one was hurt, she said; there are no nearby houses and there was no service disruption.

Rail traffic, like motor vehicle traffic, can be a spark hazard in an area with a gas leak, Virden said, adding that the gas line was "proximate to" the railroad tracks.

"The general rule is we don't have gas pipelines too close to a railroad," Virden said. "Movement can cause disruption."

An Anoka County Emergency Dispatch spokesperson was not available Tuesday night to confirm the time of the 9-1-1 call or the communication with the railroad.

Centerpoint Energy has advice about what to do if you smell gas here.


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