Shelter-in-place lifted after gas line blast

July 28, 2010 3:10:24 PM PDT
Things are getting back to normal in Austin County after a natural gas pipeline exploded early Wednesday morning. It happened around 7:30am near FM 949 between Sealy and Bellville. You could see the gas rushing out from a large hole in the ground. It has since been stopped.

The explosion and gas leak was serious enough to force authorities to evacuate those living closest and issue a shelter-in-place further out.

Bellville High School was temporarily opened as a shelter for the displaced residents. Authorities say homeowners chose to wait it out at a nearby command center at Highway 36 and FM 949.

Those who saw it say they've never seen or heard anything like it before.

"It's right directly over that hill right here," said Vern Hacker.

He owns the 140 acres on which the pipeline sits. From inside his home across the street, he actually witnessed the explosion.

"I mean it was bad. It looked like a mushroom," said Hacker.

From SkyEye HD Wednesday morning, you could see the well spewing dirt hundreds of feet. Hacker says it left a giant hole behind.

By the afternoon, folks were still talking about it.

"My ears are still ringing. It looked like an atomic bomb went off," said Mark Bolten.

Investigators say it was a 36-inch natural gas pipe that ruptured in an uninhabited hay field.

"I was by far probably the closest person to it," said Brian Bay.

Bay was asleep on his father's property. The roar of the rupture startled him out of bed, though he remembered to grab his phone to capture video of it.

"About the time I started think it would be time to get outta here, the cops came up and started telling us it was time to get outta here," Bay said.

We're told some horses and livestock were spooked and damaged some fences, but there were no reports of injuries.

"If it was gonna happen, that's probably about as a good a place for it to happen," said Hacker.

Crews were able to shut off the gas flow. The pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Pipeline. The company issued a statement below.

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Energy Transfer Partners Statement:

At approximately 6:50 a.m. today Energy Transfer Partners experienced an incident on its 36" Oasis system, an intrastate natural gas pipeline. The incident occurred in a rural area approximately 11 miles outside of Sealy, Texas.

The area is safe and secure. By 10 a.m. all residents returned to their homes and the road was re-opened. There was minimal impact to the open land immediately surrounding the pipeline incident. We are not aware of any other damage at this time.

The company has brought in outside experts, along with the Railroad Commission, to conduct an in-depth analysis of the incident. While we hope to have the results quickly, allowing the experts to thoroughly analyze the data and accurately determine the cause is our top priority.

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