Natural gas leak closes down several blocks of Guadalupe Street

Julia Brouillette

The Austin Fire Department responded to reports of a underground natural gas leak at the intersection of 22nd and Guadalupe on Saturday around 1:15 p.m.

University spokeswoman Cindy Posey said AFD and other first responders asked that people avoid the area for at least three hours. The University sent out an alert saying the scene was all clear and the leak had been stopped nearly six hours later at 7 p.m.

Texas Gas Service deployed a crew to the scene to repair the leak, which was located in an underground pipe. The company monitors more than 14,000 miles of gas lines throughout the state.

AFD battalion chief Thayer Smith said gas services were turned off for both the University Baptist Church and the Church of Scientology while the leak was being repaired. The leak occurred in a gas valve, but the cause of the leak remains unknown, Smith said.

“All they know [is the leak was] on a four-inch line there on a valve,” Smith said.

Monica Ortiz, an employee of Caffe Medici, said sidewalks were initially closed off from 21st Street to 23rd Street.

According to Smith, the sidewalks surrounding the leaking valve were made accessible again around 4 p.m., though the immediate area where crews are working to fix the leaking valve remained closed off until the crews finished repairing the leak.

Smith said several hazmat crews responded to the scene to make sure surrounding buildings were not in danger. They determined the situation did not warrant any evacuations.

“Particularly on a day like [Saturday], gas dissipates very quickly, so there [was] not any hazard except for in the immediate area that we [had] blocked off,” Smith said.

Natural gas is non-toxic and colorless, and is often used to power vehicles, appliances and heating systems. 

Smith said the surrounding sidewalks were blocked off because of the high flammability of the gas.

“We have crews out there monitoring constantly to make sure the explosive limits of the area are confined,” Smith said.

Gas leaks are rare but potentially dangerous, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas.

“Whenever gas leaks from a pipe or pipe fitting, there is a possibility of fire or explosion,” the commission’s website said. “If leaking gas accumulates in a confined space, it can displace air and cause suffocation.”