By James Beaty
McAlester firefighters ordered part of a McAlester neighborhood evacuated, blocked off an alleyway and restricted traffic on the east end of the Parkway Village Apartments on Monday after a driver flattened a CenterPoint Energy residential gas meter.
At one point the McAlester Fire Department had back-up fire engines and an ambulance parked on standby in an alley in the 500 block of West Carl Albert Parkway.
The extra equipment and personnel were on standby in case of a flare-up, according to Lt. Danny Bennett with the McAlester Fire Department.
The call to emergency personnel came into the McAlester Police Department around 8:38 a.m. Monday, Bennett said.
At the scene, Tricia Walker, 18, of Stuart, waited behind red cones as emergency crews tried to get a handle on the situation.
Walker said she’d been driving her 1998 Dodge Dakota pickup down Carl Albert Parkway when she felt the brakes going out.
She said she pulled off the highway and into an alley.
“I tried to pull in and park,” she said. Walker said the brakes in her truck gave out though, with the result that she hit the gas meter,
“I hit a meter, a tree and a fence,” she said later as she waited for a wrecker to come and move her truck.
Walker said she initially called her cousin, David Walker, for help, after she heard a noise she thought was the air coming out of the truck’s tires.
When David Walker arrived, he checked out the scene and told his cousin what she thought had been air blowing out from the truck tires was actually natural gas spewing from a broken pipe that had been connected to the gas meter.
David Walker said he told his cousin to contact the police, which she did. Police arrived along with a fire engine. When they saw the situation, they ordered the evacuation of several homes in the vicinity and told individuals showing up for work at the Funky Munky to hold off on going to work.
A CenterPoint crew consisting of Pat Heacock and Chase Giaudrone arrived with heavy equipment and dug into the alleyway to reach a two-inch supply line leading to the meter.
Workers had to “crimp the line” to stop the flow of gas before the pickup truck could be pulled off the top of the broken pipe by a wrecker driver, according to city of McAlester emergency personnel at the scene.
Following the initial repair, city firefighters and police gave the okay for residents who had been evacuated to return to their to their homes. The backup fire engine and ambulance did not have to be called to the scene.
“We had a plan and it worked,” Bennett said.
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