Evacuated Old Edwards Estates residents allowed back into their homes

A construction worker hit a gas line around 5 p.m. while working on Edwards Spur Road

Eartha Steward
Special to the Vail Daily

EDWARDS — Old Edwards Estates residents who were forced to make an emergency evacuation Thursday night after a gas leak on Edwards Spur Road are free to return to their homes this morning. An Eagle County alert went out at 7:07 a.m. giving residents the all-clear.

A construction worker ruptured a natural gas line at approximately 5 p.m. Thursday near the bridge area where crews are working on upgrades to the Edwards Spur Road and U.S. Highway 6 intersection. Tracy LeClair of the Eagle River Fire Protection District said the decision was made, with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, to evacuate residents of the subdivision around 8:30 p.m. after receiving the results of plume modeling and an assessment of the repair time for the gas line.

“It’s a big deal and we did not make the decision lightly,” LeClair said. “We don’t know how long this repair is going to take and we didn’t want to be knocking on people’s doors at 1 in the morning.”

A shelter was quickly set up at the Edwards Interfaith Chapel on U.S. Highway 6 in Edwards and residents and their pets were still trickling in after 10 p.m. Thursday. By 10:30 p.m., sheriff’s deputies had completed a sweep of the neighborhood — which LeClair estimated at about 55 structures — and planned to do another sweep later in the night.

Rude awakening

Allana Smith, a resident of the neighborhood for 11 years, was among those displaced. She and her husband, Shawn, had to wake up their four kids, Matthew, Nina, Addi and Jude, and load them into the car with the cat and the dog to head to the chapel.

“Around 8, they let us back into the neighborhood and we went home and put all the kids to bed,” Smith said. “Then we got the phone call at our house saying to evacuate.”

Deb Hein, who said she has lived in her home in the neighborhood since 1990, headed to the chapel with a pillow and some personal belongings after she got the evacuation alert. She called one of her two renters who was at work to relay the news and said her other renter was driving out of the neighborhood at the same time she was. As for her two cats?

“I cracked the garage door so they could get out. I didn’t know what to do with them,” Hein said. “The horses, I think they’ll be fine. They’re outside.”

Residents were advised to close all windows and doors and shut down all mechanical equipment, including furnaces.

What’s that smell?

LeClair said reports of people smelling gas near Colorado Mountain College and Battle Mountain High School came in after the report of the gas line being hit. Tests for gas levels at both schools, however, showed nothing. She also said crews working to fix the line opted not to shut the gas off entirely because it would impact a large swath of customers in the area.

“What they’re trying to do is get the repairs made and keep gas service to everyone in the area,” she said.

She said the decision was made to evacuate after plume modeling showed that the gas could be blown into the neighborhood by the wind.

“In this area, usually the winds go from west to east during the day, but at night they shift,” she said “That was our concern. And with the cold weather, that pushes the gas down, and it pushes it right down into those homes.”

The waiting game

LeClair said the decision to evacuate was to get residents out and settled, given how long it may take to fix the line.

“There were people with kids who have school tomorrow, so we made the decision that we don’t want to be out there at 1 in the morning doing this. Let’s get them out now,” she said. “We would rather err on the side of caution and get people out of harm’s way. Because of those wind shifts, we just wanted to make sure that we weren’t getting into a situation where all of a sudden the one way in and out of that subdivision was inundated with gas.”

Other agencies who responded to the incident include the Salvation Army, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Black Hills Energy, Eagle County Paramedics Services, Eagle County Emergency Management, Eagle County Animal Services, Vail Public Safety and Communications Center and Vail Health.

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