JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Repairs of a leaking gas line a couple blocks from the Prime Osborn Convention Center were completed overnight and the gas company went to each business where gas was turned off to restore service.
Teco Peoples Gas said the line was turned off about 5 p.m. Tuesday, affecting about 13 customers in the LaVilla neighborhood. Without gas leaking, workers were able to fix the leak on North Davis Street by 10 p.m.
The company completed safety checks and restored gas service by noon Wednesday to each business that lost it, including Pilkington Glass Repair.
"We actually had to send all of our employees home for safety reasons," said Juan Quinones of Pilkington. "It did affect business. We had to cancel everything. It was a mess, but we are back up and running now."
The leak in the 2-inch gas line was the result of corrosion on a fitting. It took about 10 hours to stop the leak.
It started out as a small gas leak but as workers pulled apart the pavement to pinpoint where that leak was coming from, it expanded into a gaping hole, and the natural gas fumes could be smelled all over downtown and on the Southbank.
"It was horrible," Quinones said. "They allowed me to go in my office for a few minutes, and it was just too much."
The gas was escaping with such force that it shredded a firefighter's glove, and he suffered lacerations to his hand. He was released from the hospital Wednesday and is expected to recover.
After the leak expanded, the area that firefighters called the edge of the safety zone was increased by about 50 feet, but the fire department stressed that the fumes never posed a health risk to people who smelled them.
The only concern was directly around the leak, where crews and firefighters were working. They said the smell is just a warning device added to the gas lines because gas is odorless.
Teco was able to stop the leak hours later, but had to shut off the gas line completely, inconveniencing more than a dozen customers.
"We had no access here, so we actually sent all the employees home, and I sat here until 5 o'clock in the afternoon and we kept the facilities open because the fire department needed to use our restrooms," Quinones said. "It made it convenient for them."
North Davis between Forsyth and Adams streets was blocked to traffic all day Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, Teco crews were still working on part of the road on North Davis near Forsyth Street, but traffic could easily navigate around it.
"Our customers can find other ways to get through, but they are managing to come in and pick up their product and get on their way out," Quinones said.
Gas services are back up and running for businesses and there is no danger to anyone in the area.