Gas line explosion rattles Washington Parish

A pre-dawn gas line explosion shook residents out of their beds in a rural, wooded area of Washington Parish, briefly knocking out power to thousands of people but not injuring anybody.

An 80-foot section of 30-inch pipeline on Lee Road ruptured at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday about 10 miles from Franklinton, Louisiana State Police Trooper Nicholas Manale said.

Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mike Haley said the blast knocked a woman who lives about 700 feet away off of her couch and the fire melted siding from the front of her mobile home, but nobody was hurt.

“She got up and went to the front door of her trailer, mobile home — it was too hot to the touch. She couldn’t open it. So she fled out the back door, got in her car and left the area as fast as she could,” Haley said.

The blast cleared trees in an area about 200 yards across and the fire burned those within another 300 yards, he said.

“The ground around the crater is completely bare. The dirt around it is just like it had been cooked in a kiln,” Haley said.

Washington Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness specialist Bobbi Jo Breland said the gas pipeline is owned by Florida Gas.

Haley said about 55 homes were evacuated until owner Florida Gas Transmission shut off the pipeline, snuffing the blaze.

Manale said all but the few nearest a broken power line were able to return by Tuesday afternoon.

Haley said Florida Gas Transmission sent a crew from Houston to find out why the pipe ruptured.

Coylean Schloegel, spokeswoman for the Washington-St. Tammany Electric Co-Op, said the broken power line knocked out power to more than 10,000 people.

Power was rerouted to all of them within an hour, but crews were not able to get to the broken line to assess damage until Tuesday afternoon, she said.

State Department of Agriculture and Forestry spokeswoman Veronica Mosgrove said four LDAF firefighters were present with two bulldozers and a pumper truck to help contain the fire.

The firefighters said there were approximately 100-foot-high flames shooting out of the pipe at one point.

Haley said numerous fire and police departments in Washington and St. Tammany parishes also responded.

“We even got a call from a neighboring county in Mississippi, Pearl River County, offering to send people over if we needed them,” he said.

Advocate staff writer Steven Ward and The Associated Press contributed
to this report.