Crews search for gas leaks beneath Salisbury, Hillsborough streets

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comDecember 31, 2013 

— Firefighters on Monday evacuated several downtown buildings, shut down Salisbury Street and closed at least one parking deck while investigating reports of a natural gas leak.

On the eve of Raleigh’s downtown First Night festivities, a crew was digging up a chunk of pavement several feet on each side of Salisbury between Martin and Hargett streets to search for the leak. PSNC Energy, the gas utility, hoped to finish its work Monday evening and have the road reopened soon after.

Emergency crews came to the scene at about 11:30 a.m., after a 911 caller reported a gas odor somewhere between South Salisbury and Fayetteville streets, according to a spokesman with the city’s emergency communications center.

Inspectors’ instruments have picked up “very low levels” of gas, according to Angie Townsend, the PSNC spokeswoman.

The initial official response to the potential leak included a hazardous materials response vehicle, a ladder truck and two fire engines. By evening about a half-dozen heavy vehicles and two excavators were on the scene.

If there is a gas leak, the substance likely would be escaping from the utility system that runs beneath the downtown streets. The repair crew would have to get through a significant amount of pavement to get there, Townsend said, though she wasn’t sure how deep the system is buried on Salisbury Street.

“It’s not just below the roadway,” she said. “Once we get to where we think we have a small leak, we’ll stop it off.”

Any necessary repairs would not affect gas service in downtown Raleigh, Townsend said. After the work is done, crews will fill in the hole and top it with gravel, making it driveable. The road should be repaved early Tuesday, she said.

The work is happening under a tight deadline: Thousands of people are expected to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the area where the gas odor was reported.

Meanwhile, a second leak closed part of Hillsborough Street between Dixie Trail and Daisy Street on Monday evening, Townsend said. PSNC received multiple reports of odor just before 5 p.m. A crew there was digging up a service line, which runs to a residence or business, in order to crimp it closed, she said.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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