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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First Person: Gas Leak

It was a quiet Monday morning in the newsroom.  Then, we heard a burst of police and fire department activity on the scanner.  Gas leak.  A big one.  Main Street.  Dickson City.

I've had a lot of experience with gas leaks over the decades.  Most start off sounding big.  Then, the gas company turns a valve.  Problem solved.  Quickly.

This one sounded a little different.  Plus, it was on a very busy street during the morning rush hour.

Photographer Corey and I jumped in one of our trucks and headed to Dickson City.  On the way, we heard about street closings.  We wondered how to get there.  Both of us know the area rather well, and we knew there would be back roads and side streets to get to the desired location.

We saw the road block as we approached from the south.  Police and firefighters were accommodating We were allowed to pull off into a supermarket parking lot with a great view of what was happening.  A pressure relief valve at a UGI gas compressor station blew, sending a plume of natural gas rocketing in to the air.

It was an impressive and frightening sight.  First of all, natural gas was shooting in to the air.  We didn't know if it would blow.  Second, the noise was deafening.  Literally.  It was painful to be around.  There was so much noise, I had to do my 8:27 AM live report from inside the truck.  It would have impossible to hear, or be heard over the jet engine like noise.

After about 90 minutes, the pressure was back to normal.  The leak stopped.  It was business as usual in Dickson City.  We gathered some interviews from frightened people who saw what happened, and got the official reaction from the fire chief and the deputy director of Lackawanna County's Emergency Management Agency.

When I got back to the office, I placed a call to UGI, to get their explanation.  Cause of pressure build up unknown.  The pressure relief valve worked as designed.  No one was hurt.  No mains were shut.  No one lost service.

An Aleve aided with my headache and ear pain.  Sleep also helped.  The noise was gone, but the image if that natural gas plume streaking in to the air will stay with me for quite a while.