By Mallory Harris | Reporter, Video by George Schroeder | Broadcast Reporter
On Monday at 10:40 a.m., Baylor Alert sent out a message about a gas leak near 8th Street parking garage. Cars in the garage were forbidden from starting, and the intersection in front of the street was shut down until the all-clear was given at 12:34 p.m.
John Johnston, battalion chief of Waco fire department, said they believed theleak was caused by a natural gas line hit by local construction.
“Appears to be a utility company with the highway construction struck a 6-inch gas line,” Johnston said. “Right now, we are in a holding pattern, Atmos Gas is digging up the line right now so we can shut down the gas. We are very fortunate we have a lot of wind coming out of the north, and it’s allowing the gas to dissipate without any real risk right now.”
The businesses along the southwest side of 8th street adjacent to the garage were evacuated first, followed by Brooks Residential Flats and the Mary Gibbs Jones Family and Consumer Science Building.
“We have our HazMat – 11 here that is also monitoring the gas and everything to make sure we are safe,” Johnston said. “In result, we have a lot of gas, natural gas, and we have had to evacuate some of the buildings and make sure that we shut down any ignition sources so that we don’t have an explosion or anything like that. We’ve also shut down the Baylor garage so that way any gas blowing in the winds in that direction does not get pocketed.”
After Johnston assessed the situation, students were able to enter the Mary Gibbs Jones Family and Consumer Science Building.
When the first alert was sent out to students, the subject line read “Waco Police Action at LL Sams.” While the body of the email said the leak was near the 8th St garage — all the way across campus — nine minutes later, Baylor sent out a correction email with a new subject line: “Gas Leak Near 8th Street Parking Garage.”
Since students weren’t able to access their cars that were located in 8th street garage, many students’ plans for the day had to change. Cibolo freshman Shea Santos said she was planning on going to the grocery store before the first alert came out. As she changed her plans, Santos also said how she was scared when she first got the alert.
“I live right there [in Collins], and so I was a little bit confused as to what was going on. I was a little scared because a gas leak sounds pretty scary, and if they don’t want us to start our cars, that sounds really scary,” Santos said.