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Downtown Spokane gas line rupture spurs evacuations

Avista Utilities conducted a natural gas burn-off after a Spokane crew hit a 12-inch gas main at Sprague Avenue and Monroe Street on Monday. (Kathy Plonka)
Avista Utilities conducted a natural gas burn-off after a Spokane crew hit a 12-inch gas main at Sprague Avenue and Monroe Street on Monday. (Kathy Plonka)

Several downtown Spokane businesses were evacuated Monday afternoon when a city street contractor ruptured a 12-inch natural gas line at Monroe Street and Sprague Avenue.

Work to fix the damaged line interrupted gas service to 226 customers Monday afternoon and was expected to continue through the night, said Debbie Simock, an Avista Utilities spokeswoman.

The outage area is bounded by Riverside Avenue on the north, Lincoln Street on the east, Fifth Avenue on the south and Ash Street on the west.

The Spokesman-Review, the adjacent Chronicle Building and the newspaper production facility across Monroe were evacuated, as were the Knitting Factory, the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, Tamarack Public House and Inland Mortgage Inc. on Sprague Avenue.

The evacuation of The Spokesman-Review building lasted about 2 1/2 hours.

Spokane police diverted traffic away from the area. Monroe was closed from Broadway to First avenues, and Riverside, Sprague and First avenues were closed between Madison and Lincoln streets.

The evacuations began shortly after 2 p.m., and bystanders outside could smell the mercaptan that utilities add to natural gas to give it a distinct odor.

Simock said Avista crews went to each of the affected gas customers to manually turn off the gas at the meter. That work was expected to wrap up by 10 p.m., and utility crews were expected to work through the night to repair the main, Simock said.

At Linnie’s Thai Cuisine, 1301 W. Third Ave., the cooktops are powered by natural gas. Gas service was cut about 4:30 p.m., forcing the restaurant to turn away customers, said Travis Barden, a server.

It appeared the restaurant would be forced to close Monday tonight, he said.

“There is no food to be made, I guess,” Barden said.

The contractor was doing routine work in preparation for next construction season, when that stretch of Monroe is set to be repaired, city spokesman Brian Coddington said. The workers were testing for “asphalt core drilling depths,” he said, and they hit the gas line that was closer to the surface than expected.

None of the workers was injured or sickened in the accident, Coddington said.


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