Gas leak leads to evacuation

The sound of what some felt mirrored a jet engine broke through the normally quiet area near the Preserve subdivision in Dripping Springs after an 8-inch gas main was ruptured Friday.

Scott Collard, North Hays County Fire Rescue chief, said no one was injured in the accident, which shut down U.S. Highway 290 in Dripping Springs for several hours. The event also triggered the evacuation of several residents who live in the Hays Country Acres subdivision, as well as several area businesses, including the Dripping Springs animal hospital.

Collard said the gas leak was caused by a contractor that was working in the future Blue Blazes commercial development in the 1600 block of U.S. 290. A track hoe was doing excavation work and punched through the line, which had a pressure of 250 pounds per square inch (psi).

NHCFR, which received the initial 911 call at 9:15 a.m. that morning, set up a “Unified Command,” which included San Marcos Hays County EMS, Hays County Sheriff’s Office, as well as Ron Hood, Hays County Pct. 4 constable. The Texas Department of Transportation and Texas Gas also helped with the incident.

The department also received assistance from Pedernales Electric Cooperative, which turned off power to the area to avoid creating an ignition source.

“The less ignition sources we have, the better off everyone was going to be,” Collard said.

Collard added the NHCFR has had to deal with smaller residential gas leaks in the last few years. The NHCFR also trains with Texas Gas Service on a regular basis to handle such gas leaks.

For some residents, the ruptured gas line created a rather rude wake up call.

Dripping Springs resident Michael Wilte was cleaning his backyard pool when he heard a sound break through the normally silent area. 

“I was cleaning my pool and took a break, and then I heard a jet engine sound,” Wilte said. “If you’ve worked with a gas torch, that’s what it sounded like. Only 100 times bigger.”

Margaret Foster, also a resident in the Preserve subdivision, said she heard a noise that sounded like “someone was drilling through limestone.”

She thought someone was putting in another well until she realized the sound didn’t go away. It wasn’t until she received a reverse 911 call that she realized what had taken place.

“It lasted for a long time,” Foster said. “I wondered what that was, perhaps someone building something. But then I got the alert and that cleared that up.”

Foster said the gas leak was “scary” and felt the influx of development she believed is “controlled as well as it should be” led to the leak.

“When I moved to Dripping Springs, it was such a quiet, quant town,” Foster said. “I know development is necessary. You’re either growing or dying. But I think it needs to be well planned.”

Hunter Connor, owner of the Terrace Club wedding venue, said one of her employees was working when the power was cut off. While the employee didn’t receive a formal evacuation notice, Connor told her employee to leave after seeing chatter on the NextDoor app.

Connor said the employee didn’t know what to think of the leak, and that it was a scary situation.

“She heard the sound and she was scared, didn’t really know what to think. She couldn’t see any cars on the highway,” Connor said. “When she went to leave, it was like a ghost town.”

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