Traffic was halted and homes evacuated Friday morning when a high-pressure natural gas line was ruptured along Main Street in Oneonta.
The leak was reported at 9:18 a.m., according to Mayor Gary Herzig.
Gas could be seen spewing from a hole near the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue. A small excavator hit the pipe while its operator was digging, according to Oneonta Police Chief Douglas Brenner. “They hit a pretty big line,” he said. He said there were no reported injuries and no property, aside from the gas pipe, had been destroyed,
Herzig said the operator was digging for installation of a new water main.
Brenner said residents were evacuated from homes within “a couple blocks” of the scene. “In this atmosphere, gas is heavier than air,” he said, and officials were concerned about it settling in low-lying areas. Traffic was blocked on Main Street from Lettis Highway to Draper Street, and on Center Street from Gault Avenue to Draper Street.
Brenner said there was no evacuation of nearby Fox Hospital.
The hospital issued a statement about 11 a.m., recommending that visitors and patients with outpatient appointments remain in the hospital after their visits until the situation was resolved. The statement said hospital staff were advised to remain inside and close all windows. The hospital activated its Incident Command Team.
“We don’t know the why this has happened,” Herzig said. He said police and firefighters, as well as NYSEG employees, responded very quickly to the emergency. “Job well done by all of our emergency first responders,” he said.
Herzig said operations at Fox Hospital were not affected, but Brenner said emergency services were diverted from the hospital and restored about 11:30 a.m. He said he did not know if any ambulances were actually diverted.
Brenner reported about 11:30 a.m. that the gas line had been capped, and that gas was dissipating. Center Street was reopened at about 11 a.m. and Main Street was reopened around noon.
Chelsea Nattress, who lives on Tilton Avenue about a block from the rupture, was leaving the area around 10 a.m. with her mother and child. She said she initially thought there was a gas leak in her own house.
“I was sitting there and I smelled gas,” she said. “I called NYSEG and they said they’d send someone within the hour.” She said she went upstairs to wake her baby and found the gas smell much stronger. Her mother, Pat Jacob, came to pick them up and advised her of the larger emergency.
“Our whole house is filled with gas,” Nattress said. “It’s been an eventful morning.”
No customers in the area lost service or were affected by the outage, said Michael Jamison, manager of corporate communications at Avangrid, an energy company of which NYSEG is a subsidiary. A NYSEG employee evacuated one person from a business on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street in an “abundance of caution,” Jamison said.
Officers of the State Police and the State University Police assisted Oneonta Police with traffic control and Oneonta firefighters and employees of the city Department of Public Service also responded to the scene.
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Staff Writer Shweta Karikehalli contributed to this report.