Friday, June 25, 1999
Gas leak halts traffic, forces evacuation of seven homes
Havoc erupted on Monday morning, June 21, when a four-inch plastic gas main was ruptured at approximately 7:30 a.m. near the NYNEX junction house on Westford Street. Detour signs and traffic control officers were already in place for the planned drainage work for the pedestrian/bike path.
According to Superintendent of the department of public works Gary Davis, a piece of heavy equipment moved a rock which in turn punctured the gas line. The pressure of the escaping gas sent a geyser of dirt about 40 feet into the air. This continued until the gas was shut off by Boston Gas at about 9:15 a.m.
The fire department, led on the scene by deputy fire chief David Flannery, worked with the police, secured the area and evacuated seven homes in the town center, plus the Town Hall. Gas could be smelled as far away as the White residence next to the post office.
A rush-hour traffic jam ensued. No traffic was allowed westbound through town center on Route 225. Eastbound traffic backed up to Monroe Hill and was initially directed on to Church Street at Rockland Road, and directed across Concord Street, past the school. Carlisle School bus drivers improvised routes and most buses were able to deliver students within five minutes of class starting time.
Shortly before 9 a.m., eastbound traffic was diverted down Cross Street to allow gas company staff safe access to the Westford Street valve. By 9:15, Boston Gas had isolated the affected section, closed the two main valves near the Honor Roll on the Town Green and on Westford Street just west of Rockland Road.
Before the homes were again occupied, fire department staff certified the evacuated buildings, verifying that the gas was turned off at each house and that the indoor air quality was reasonable. By 9:30 a.m., the evacuation was over, the traffic back-up had evaporated, and the last school bus was at school.
Boston Gas crew leader Dave Shanahan said that it was fortunate that the rupture's location was between two nearby main valves. The four- to five-hour repair job was routine for them. "Just a day in the life of a gas guy," stated Shanahan. The approximately 15 gas customers in Carlisle center between these two valves were without gas service until later that day.
In an impromptu wrap-up meeting of police chief Dave Galvin, selectman John Ballantine and Davis at the base of the Town Hall driveway, town administrator David DeManche commented that he was impressed with the efficiency of the town departments during what could have been a major emergency.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito