Gas leak causes evacuation


by Jasmynne Sloan

A gas leak on D Street caused residents of Hamilton House to be evacuated on Tuesday, Aug. 27 and Wednesday, Aug. 28.

“I smelled the gas when I first walked outside, but then I saw the fire-trucks and knew something was wrong,” said Laurie Dienberg-Hoppe, assistant director of residence life who also lives in Hamilton House..

Construction workers were digging storm sewers to prevent the flooding of the area around Irving Elementary on Tuesday morning when the backhoe operator struck the gas line around 8:45 a.m. This caused the pipe to crack and leak natural gas into the air.

When the city decided that the gas had reached unsafe levels they evacuated Hamilton House.

“Evacuating Hamilton was just something we had to do to be safe,” said Chris Frerichs, chief of security.

“That was an interesting way to start the year,” said junior Kristen Erickson, a resident of Hamilton House.

After being told to leave, students immediately left, some in their pajamas and several without books for their classes while they waited for the pipe to be fixed.

“After the gas line was fixed, the hard part was notifying everyone that they could go back to the house,” Frerichs said.

Students returned to Hamilton thinking the problem had been fixed.

Wednesday morning at 9:45, the same gas pipe was hit but in a different place.

“It was a complete coincidence for the gas line to be hit two days in a row,” Dienberg-Hoppe said.

After the second leak, Hamilton House was not the only building evacuated. Irving Elementary School and the residential homes near the leak were also evacuated. Students at Irving spent over an hour on Simpson’s campus.

Irving Elementary Principal Craig Sexton said, “The kids all handled themselves very well. We were just glad that Simpson was able to let us come over.”

Despite the hassles and inconvenience of being evacuated most agree that it could have been worse.

Indianola Fire Chief Brian Seymour said, “Considering the circumstances, everything went very well.”

Sexton said, “This kind of thing happens when you’re digging, and I’d say the city, Simpson and our school worked very well together.”