Gas line explosion rattles Washington Parish

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A pre-dawn gas line explosion shook residents out of their beds in a rural, wooded area of Washington Parish, briefly knocking out power to thousands of people but not injuring anybody.

An 80-foot section of 30-inch pipeline ruptured about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday about 10 miles from Franklinton, said Louisiana State Trooper Nicholas Manale.

The blast knocked a woman who lives about 700 feet away off of her couch and the fire melted siding from the front of her house trailer, but nobody was hurt, Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mike Haley said.

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“She got up and went to the front door of her trailer, mobile home — it was too hot to the touch. She couldn’t open it. So she fled out the back door, got in her car and left the area as fast as she could,” he said.

The blast cleared trees in an area about 200 yards across and the fire burned those within another 300 yards, he said.

“The ground around the crater is completely bare. The dirt around it is just like it had been cooked in a kiln,” said Haley.

He said about 55 homes were evacuated until owner Florida Gas Transmission shut off the pipeline, snuffing the blaze. All but the few nearest a broken power line were able to return by Tuesday afternoon, Manale said.

Haley said Florida Gas Transmission sent a crew from Houston to find out why the pipe ruptured.

The broken power line knocked out power to more than 10,000 people, said Coylean Schloegel (SLOW-guhl), spokeswoman for the Washington-St. Tammany Electric Co-Op. Power was rerouted to all of them within an hour, but crews were not able to get to the broken line to assess damage until Tuesday afternoon, she said.

Haley said numerous fire and police departments in Washington and St. Tammany parishes responded.

“We even got a call from a neighboring county in Mississippi, Pearl River County, offering to send people over if we needed them,” he said.