Snellville gas leak causes disruptions at rush hour

LAWRENCEVILLE - A natural gas leak in Snellville Monday closed a busy highway during rush hour, forced residents out of their homes and kept students indoors.

The severe disruptions began about 4 p.m. when construction workers hit a 6-inch-thick natural gas line at Ga. Highway 124 and Skylars Mill Way, said Gwinnett Fire Dept. spokesman Lt. Craig E. Stanley.

As a safety precaution, the Fire Department evacuated 14 homes in the Skylars Mill subdivision and shut down a mile-long stretch of Ga. 124 between Henry Clower Boulevard and Highpoint Road.

The road closure, which came just as rush hour kicked off, caused a traffic crunch, and Snellville police rerouted motorists down Lenora Church Road and Springdale Road.

At nearby Snellville Middle School, which was downwind of the leak, school officials were advised to keep students indoors. Most had gone home, but 27 who had stayed for after-school activities were released to their parents about 7 p.m., Stanley said. No injuries were reported, Stanley said.

Atlanta Gas Light was able to reach a valve buried about 12 feet below ground and shut off the gas about 9:30 p.m. Afterward, the evacuees were allowed to return home and Ga. 124 was reopened.

"It was a dangerous situation with natural gas leaking from a pretty large main," Stanley said. "Fortunately the winds were very light and the gas has evaporated in the air."

The construction workers who hit the gas line were installing a retaining wall along Skylars Mill Way, Stanley said. The name of their employer was not available Monday.