Ruptured Gas Line Closes Major Highway

A ruptured gas line halts traffic for several hours in Harlan County Monday.

It happened on U.S. 119 near the Bell County line at least one home was evacuated while gas valves were shut off.

The state highway worker who hit the line says it was too the surface.

“I shut off the engine and took off running,” Darryl White said.

After working for the state highway department for 20 years, Darryl White says he knew exactly what he hit, while trying to clean out the ditches for the state along U.S. 119, he says he sliced a main gas line, owned by Daugherty Petroleum.

“Gas line and water line are up on the surface of the ground, supposed to be 36 inches underground and I was digging the ditch and hit it with the tooth,” White said.

After running for safety, White says he called for help to have the main valves shut off and to close down the two-way highway, along with the parallel railroad.

At least one family says they were asked to leave their home, while others nearby, like 90-year old Cora Carmichal, decided to leave too.

“I went up to my daughters house for a while. I don't like not knowing what's going on, that's what worries me,” Carmichal said.

State highway department officials say it's the company's responsibility to make sure lines are laid safely by contractors, but permit engineer Conley Moren says, due to low man-power the state is also behind on follow up inspections on those lines.

Moren says if it was an old gas line, it had to be at least 18 inches deep while any new lines must now be buried 42 inches.

WYMT spoke to Bud Baldridge with Daugherty Petroleum Monday about the gas line rupture.

He says the line was originally laid at the correct depth, but he said erosion could have made the line more shallow.

Baldridge says there was very low pressure in the gas line and the pipe was quickly repaired.

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