A natural gas leak Tuesday forced the evacuation of 885 Hopkins County High School students. No injuries were reported.
Hopkins County Sheriff Deputy Jeremy Crick said the leak started around mid-morning when an Atmos Energy service crew was performing routine maintenance in Mortons Gap. Crick said one of the crew accidentally ran over a connector pipe causing a cap to blow off. Emergency management officials notified the school as well as city authorities. Mayor Frank Stafford issued a mandatory evacuation of the area at 11:45 am. Traffic on US 41 was halted for several hours while fire crews shut off gas lines. Stafford said the evacuation of 400 residents was based more on the risk of an explosion rather than the risk of gas inhalation.
“They were not afraid of the gas itself, they were afraid of some kind of spark," said Stafford. "It would have been terrible if someone had to stop for traffic and threw out a cigarette, that would have been chaos.”
Crick said an Atmos crew drove in from Indiana and closed the leak around 1:30 p.m. Mayor Stafford said officials gave the all-clear to open the roads soon afterwards. Area residents started returning to town later in the afternoon. Although no one was hurt, Stafford said the situation could have been disastrous.