Natural gas line hit by lightning

Published 6:20 pm Friday, April 9, 2010

Cooper Riis people were evacuated to

Polk Middle School

by Leah Justice

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Lightning struck a gas line on Silver Creek Road last Thursday evening and caused flames that reportedly shot 100 feet in the air.

Between 30 and 50 people were evacuated and taken to the Polk County Middle School from CooperRiis due to a nearby pipeline that was releasing gas into the air.

Many more homeowners were evacuated in the immediate area of Silver Creek Road, from Hwy. 108 around CooperRiis to Mountain Range Road and on Walker Road from Hwy. 9 to Mountain Range Road.

Several roads were also blocked while firefighters from Polk and several nearby counties fought the blaze that was occurring at the natural gas substation where Williams Gas and PSNC connect on Silver Creek Road. The fire was contained at the substation near Garrett Road on Silver Creek Road. Flames were coming from a metal building where the pipeline comes into.

Polk County Emergency Services Director Sandra Halford says the initial call came in at 6:54 p.m. Thursday after lightning hit the pipeline at the substation, approximately one mile from Hwy. 9. She says the gas that was discharging was burning and pressure was building up in the line. The substation at CooperRiis was acting appropriately, she says, with valves opening to the gas out into the air.

Emergency vehicles were at several locations in Mill Spring Thursday night, with some people who were evacuated or simply trying to figure out what was going on sitting in lawn chairs at service stations at the intersection of Hwys. 9 and 108.

Roads that were closed for much of the evening included Walker Road to Mountain Range Road, Hwy. 108 to Mountain Range Road and Silver Creek Road from Hwy. 9 to Garrett Road.

Firefighters cleared the scene around 11:30 p.m. Thursday night, according to Halford, but Williams and PSNC stayed and repaired the line to restore the natural gas.

Polk Emergency departments who assisted included the Mill Spring, Sunny View, Green Creek, Columbus, Saluda and Tryon fire and rescue departments, the Polk County Emergency Services, the Polk County Rescue Squad, the Polk County Sheriffs Office and the Polk County American Red Cross.

Other assistance came from all over the region in both North and South Carolina and included the fire departments of Dana, Mountain Home, New Prospect, Inman Community, Campobello, Whitney, Fairway, Lake Toxaway, Brevard, Gerton, Valley Hill, Asheville Fire and Rescue, Little River, Cedar Mountain, Green Hill, Hudlow and Lake Lure. The Transylvania Rescue Squad also assisted, along with the Landrum Rescue Squad who stood by for Polk emergency calls. The Landrum Fire Department stood by for Tryon fire calls and the N.C. Highway Patrol along with the Polk sheriffs office closed roads and did traffic control.