Glenshire residents return home days after a harrowing gas leak evacuation
TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; It’s been a difficult month for a few Glenshire residents who spent nearly two weeks displaced by a major underground natural gas leak near the intersection of Royal Crest and Nelson Street that officials only recently were able to control.Just ask Jerry and Beverly Van Valkenberg, who learned of the leak the day it occurred andamp;#8212; Wednesday, March 2 andamp;#8212; when their neighbor couldn’t get his heater to work and was told by a service worker no gas was coming into the heater and to dial 911.andamp;#8220;It was a huge leak andamp;#8212; we didn’t realize the gravity of it, and then they evacuated us all,andamp;#8221; Beverly said.In all, Gene Welch, public safety information officer for the Truckee Fire Protection District, said 10 homes were evacuated after the incident was first reported at 1:28 p.m. Of those 10, four households deemed at a larger risk by Southwest Gas were evacuated for longer than a week. No one was hurt in the incident.The Van Valkenbergs live in one of those higher-danger homes. Without any time to pack, Beverly and fellow residents were escorted that afternoon by fire and police to the Glenshire Devonshire Resident’s Association clubhouse for what they thought would only be a temporary evacuation.Then a few hours turned into nearly two weeks.andamp;#8220;We literally had to walk down the street, leave our cars, everything, not use a cell phone, not touch anything,andamp;#8221; she said.Despite the inconvenience, Jerry said he was thankful to emergency crews and to Southwest Gas for their immediate response.andamp;#8220;In the very beginning, when they realized it was a danger, they moved everybody out and they secured the area very well,andamp;#8221; he said.
While all residents have returned to their homes andamp;#8212; the last person moving back in Monday, March 14, Welch said andamp;#8212; the leak still hasn’t been stopped, although Davis said air and flammability levels have been reduced to non-hazardous levels.Davis said Thursday that crews have isolated a perimeter around where they believe to be the source of the leak. He was unwilling to name a specific location until the situation is fully analyzed.As of Thursday, aeration machines and compressors were still set up in the neighborhood. The extended time for their presence is due to the cold climate, he said.andamp;#8220;With freezing and snow, it’s hard for that gas (being pulled from the ground by the aerators) to go into the atmosphere,andamp;#8221; Davis said.While Davis couldn’t speculate on when the machines will be stopped, he said he has never had to use them longer than three weeks in his career.
The days that followed March 2 were very trying for Van Valkenbergs, Jerry said, as they had to check in and out of a hotel each night with no word or estimation of containment from Southwest Gas. andamp;#8220;For 12 days we had to live with not knowing what was going on; they communicated to us one day at a time and that just created unrest.andamp;#8221; Jerry said. andamp;#8220;What I really would like to see is the gas company come up with some type of procedure to handle the victims of the next incident.andamp;#8221;Davis said Southwest is committed to fully reimbursing residents displaced by the incident. Furthermore, residents could have sought assistance from the town of Truckee or the American Red Cross, although none did, Beverly Van Valkenberg said.The Van Valkenbergs said they were allowed to return to their home Sunday night; however, with air machines running constantly since, sleep has been difficult.andamp;#8220;At night when it’s quiet, we have to turn on the TV because it sounds like water is running andamp;#8212; it’s terrible,andamp;#8221; Beverly said.Janice Jones, a neighbor living nearby, said she has seen Southwest utility crews working in the neighborhood since the afternoon of March 2, and the work has been constant.andamp;#8220;Southwest has had crews here 24/7,andamp;#8221; she said.Glenshire residents and the public were informed via e-mail of the incident, Welch said; however, due to e-mail miscommunications, the Sierra Sun didn’t learn of the incident until late last week, when readers sent in e-mail concerns.
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