Main Street Breckenridge reopens after weeklong gas leak
January 10, 2015
After nearly seven days and nights of chasing an invisible hazard, Main Street Breckenridge is back in business.
Crews with Xcel Energy on Saturday morning fully contained a natural gas leak that put nearly 15 Main Street businesses out of commission since Jan. 4. The downtown strip, including the 300 block where the leak originated, is open again to vehicles and foot traffic.
The leak is no longer a health concern, but Xcel crews will remain in town for at least a week to monitor four venting stations on the 300 block. The stations are barricaded and located away from main walkways.
Crews will also close sections of Main Street in the coming week to finish repairing the pavement. When the leak was discovered, Xcel tore up the roadway to cap the faulty underground gas line. The holes were replaced with temporary "cold patches" earlier in the week. After weekend ski traffic eases, crews will return to place permanent patches.
Updates on road closures will be blasted through the SC Alert System. To sign up, see http://www.scalert.org.
The leak was first detected late on Jan. 4 in front of the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District station at 316 N. Main St. It led to immediate evacuations and closed Main Street for nearly 24 hours.
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Once the leak was discovered, Xcel sent five crews to work around the clock to assess and contain the leak. Xcel officials said the leak didn't pose an immediate public health hazard, but because the gas is odorless and invisible, it's difficult to track. Crews also investigated pipelines near the leaking pipe and found no other problems.
"Thank goodness it wasn't worse," said Kim Dykstra, a spokeswoman with the town of Breckenridge. "Closing the street is never easy this time of year, but the town is pretty much intact and things are getting back to normal."
Back in business
As Breck's main drag reopens in full, crews with Xcel and the town will continue to monitor gas levels on the street and inside affected buildings.
Ready Paint Fire, Stella's Hungry Horse, Paragon Lodging and the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance have resumed normal operations, while Northside Pizza and Avalanche Sports plan to reopen in the next few days. Several businesses on the north end of Main Street reopened early on Jan. 6, including Subway and Daylight Donuts.
For pedestrians this weekend, the only reminder of the leak will be four venting stations on lawns along the 300 block. In a town release, Xcel officials said underground leaks often lead to "gas migration," or pockets of trapped gas.
These pockets are "due mostly to the gravel-like soil conditions and cold temperatures," according to the release.
"What's happening is that there are still pockets of gas trapped below the surface," Dykstra said. "They're venting those out with a couple different machines, but those are out of the sidewalks and roadways."
As of Saturday, officials are still unsure what caused the leak. Xcel is investigating potential causes — company spokesman Mark Stutz said ground shifts and surface activity have caused similar leaks elsewhere — but Dykstra said the energy provider may not have official findings until late spring or summer, when the ground has thawed enough to easily dig around the underground gas lines.
"It's basically the permafrost that they're struggling with," Dykstra said. "It's 4 feet deep, so they can't get in there easily to figure out what the cause was."
Still, the leak is the largest — and only — such incident along Main Street in recent memory.
"This is an anomaly for us," Dykstra said. "This closure lasted seven days, and that's pretty unusual for up here. I don't ever recall it being closed for this long."
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