RED SPRINGS — Workers from Piedmont Natural Gas were working late Saturday night to repair a natural gas line that ruptured during a neighborhood dig earlier that day — and volunteers from the American Red Cross were working to ready the Baptist Men’s Mission Camp for more than 100 evacuees.
Residents within a mile radius of the leak, at the intersection of Old Lowery and Pearsall roads, were advised to leave and were told to expect a stay that could last up to 15 hours, according to Robeson County Sheriff Ken Sealey. The earliest time frame for the repair, Sealey said, was midnight.
The line ruptured at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, sending a flood of natural gas into the air near the Sandy Acres trailer park. Sheriff’s deputies were not letting anyone past roadblocks set up at the intersections of Old Lowery and Mt. Tabor roads, and Old Lowery Road and Dixie Drive.
Evacuees were first taken to the Red Springs Community Building, and then were either bused by SEATS, the county’s bus system, or drove their own vehicles to the camp, where Robeson County EMS was on standby. At about 8 p.m., workers from the Red Cross and volunteers from area churches were working to supply the evacuees with food and water. Next on the list, according to Pat Martin of the Disaster Assessment Team, were blankets and pillows to make them comfortable.
“My main priority is food,” Martin said. “This happened around 4 or 5 p.m., so I’m sure these people need to eat.”
As evacuees arrived, Martin directed them to sofas and armchairs while volunteers took down names. Families were then led to cafeteria tables at the other end of the building, near a kitchen where a meal was being prepared. Some began playing board games or started shooting pool.
Gathered around a table were Furlin Carter, Annie Graham and their children Marcus, Amy, Emily and Malachi. Carter said the family didn’t have a chance to grab anything on their way out of their home in Sandy Acres. The family was at first told by Piedmont workers to stay in their home, less than 20 feet from the pipeline, shortly after hearing a bang and then a loud, steady “whoosh.”
“It smelled bad, like rotten eggs,” Graham said. “… We knew we couldn’t stay there.”
Workers from the natural gas company then returned to tell them not to start a fire or even light a cigarette, Carter said. Then firefighters from Shannon Volunteer Fire Department directed them to the community building.
“I was afraid to even start the van to leave,” Carter said.
Abbi Overfelt works for Civitas Media as editor of The Red Springs Citizen.