Homes near Washington State Penitentiary evacuated after gas line break

A worker damaged a pipeline at 13th and Carrie avenues on Tuesday afternoon.

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WALLA WALLA -- Nine homes along Carrie and 13th avenues were evacuated Tuesday evening after a trackhoe excavator hit and broke a gas line in the neighborhood.

No injuries were reported, but a number of families were displaced for the night, Washington State Penitentiary inmates were kept indoors and 13th Avenue was shut down for a period while Cascade Natural Gas work crews swarmed in to stop the leak and repair the line, officials said.

A representative from Cascade Natural Gas could not be reached for comment this morning.

According to the Walla Walla Fire Department, a construction worker operating the excavator hit a six-inch, low-pressure, high-volume gas line at 13th and Carrie around 5:15 p.m. Crews from Cascade Natural Gas were also called in to respond, said Walla Walla Deputy Chief Bob Yancey.

He said workers were out until about 2:30 a.m. repairing the damage. An air sampling meter was used to determine the reach of the gas leak, he said. About four homes east of the intersection on each side of Carrie Avenue and one home on 13th Avenue were evacuated.

With many of those homes heated by gas, residents found other accommodations for the night, said Terry Hackney, executive director of the Blue Mountain Chapter of the American Red Cross. Most of those residents were able to stay with family members or friends, he said this morning. One couple was put up in a motel for the night.

The leak also slightly affected operations at the penitentiary, said spokeswoman Shari Hall. She said inmates were returned to their units around 7 or 7:30 p.m. due to the air quality. With 13th Avenue closed for repairs, the leak also created a headache for employees trying to get in and out of the parking lots. Vehicles were re-routed around the the institution, Hall said. She said gas was restored to the facility around 4 a.m. today.

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