Gas leak forces evacuation in NashuaBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
November 02. 2011 9:03PM
NASHUA -- About 50 people were evacuated from their homes on Wednesday following a major gas leak on Harbor Avenue.
Fire crews received a report of odorous gas around 3:30 p.m., and upon arrival had located an 8-inch natural gas line that had been damaged.
'There was construction going on in the area and a gas main was ruptured,' said Justin Kates, director of emergency management for the city.
A city bus was used to house the evacuees while National Grid arrived to repair the broken gas line near Tyler and East Hollis Street, which is in close proximity to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, according to Kates.
'We were preparing to send them to the shelter at the high school set up for those without electricity, but most of them were relocated instead to an adjacent building,' he said. 'It was kind of crazy because we had a lot of stuff going on all at once.'
Kates, who is still dealing with a significant portion of the city without electricity because of Saturday's snow storm, said he was unsure whether there were any injuries associated with the leak. The actual cause of the break was still being investigated on Wednesday evening, but Kates said the situation was under control around 8 p.m.
Members of Nashua Fire Rescue tested the air quality in surrounding buildings and evacuated those residents from 18 Harbor Ave. south to Bowers Street. The primary multi-unit building that was evacuated, according to Kates, was Meridian Place, a local condominium development.
It was unclear Wednesday night when residents would be able to return to their homes, as fire officials would have to continuously test the air quality of the buildings, he said.
Wednesday night, Kates was urging anyone who smelled gas to call 911 as a precaution, but also explained that because the odor was dissertating, the gas could likely be smelled in areas away from the immediate neighborhood with the leak.
'It was pretty well contained, and I am glad it is now under control,' he said.
Construction has been taking place on Harbor Avenue for several weeks, and the road has been closed recently to motorists.
The city's Emergency Management Department, at the time of the gas rupture, was in the process of trying to determine whether Nashua schools would be in service on Thursday. Because there are still many electrical wires down from the storm, Kates said the decision was made to keep kids out of the classroom for another day, especially because Nashua has many students who walk to school.
Thursday is the fourth day city students have off from school this week because of the severe storm damage. As of Wednesday night, about 15,700 city residents were still without power, or nearly 40 percent of Nashua, according to Public Service of New Hampshire's website.