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UPDATE: W.Va. Receives Federal Funding for Pipeline Safety

By: Anna Baxter; The Associated Press Email
By: Anna Baxter; The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 10/29/13
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Federal funding is coming to West Virginia for pipeline safety efforts.

Two grants from the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Material Administration were awarded to W.Va. Agencies.

"West Virginia's booming natural gas industry relies heavily on pipelines, which means they must be safe, reliable and durable. As Commerce Committee Chairman, I've worked hard to make sure there is oversight of our pipeline operations to prevent accidents that could harm both our communities and our economy," said Senator Jay Rockefeller. "The importance of establishing the strongest possible safeguards against future pipeline explosions was never more apparent than after the devastating explosion in Sissonville last December. This funding is an important investment in our work to make pipelines as safe and secure as possible."

The gas line explosion in December happened along Teresa Lane in Sissonville.

Interstate 77 was shut down after fire from the explosion spread across the interstate. Crews had to pull up and repave the portion of the interstate near the Sissonville exit.

The fire destroyed four homes and several others were damaged. Several people were treated for smoke inhalation, but no one was seriously hurt.

"In West Virginia, investing in natural gas is important for job creation and economic growth, but the bottom line is that we need to make sure drilling is done safely," Senator Joe Manchin said. "We are fortunate that no one was seriously injured last year when a gas pipeline ruptured in Sissonville. This incident proved that we constantly need to be prepared and safety should always be our top priority. This funding will help ensure the pipelines are being operated safely, maintained properly and inspected regularly so that incidents like the rupture last December don't happen again."

The following agencies will receive funding:
West Virginia Public Service Commission: $496,943 as a reimbursement to help alleviate the cost of the State's pipeline safety programs.

West Virginia Emergency Response Commission: $200,717 for assistance in performing hazardous materials response duties.



UPDATE 10/23/13 @ 11:45 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The National Transportation Safety Board has delayed release of the final report on a massive natural gas line explosion last year in Sissonville.

It happened last September. The blast destroyed several homes and damaged a section of Interstate 77.

The report was expected to be released by Dec. 3. The NTSB says that won't happen, though, because many of its investigators were furloughed during the recent government shutdown.

There is no word on when the report will be released.



UPDATE 6/6/13 @ 16:15 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- New details are being released about a six-month-long investigation into a devastating explosion that rocked Sissonville.

It was December 11, 2012 when a natural gas pipeline ruptured and caught fire.

The blast destroyed three homes and heavily damaged a portion of I-77.

No one was seriously hurt in the explosion.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been looking into the incident, and released more than a thousand pages of documents related to the investigation.

It started in the days following the explosion with NTSB officials questioning those who were working that day. They've been interviewing Columbia Gas workers ever since.

Their questions mainly revolved around the procedures for this type of emergency and whether they were followed.

About the time the pipe ruptured, Columbia Gas started getting alerts about pressure dropping, but according to an interview with one of the managers, it wasn't until they saw a picture on TV that they knew the magnitude of what had happened.

One Columbia Gas employee told investigators it took them about 20 minutes to figure out the area where the rupture occurred, and more than 30 minutes to figure out which valve needed to be turned off.

He says that's because in this situation, you want to get things right or you risk making it worse and feeding the fire.

Overall, it took about an hour to stop the gas-flow, which in turn stopped the flames.

William Christian, the director of gas control told investigators, "The guys followed directions. Nobody was a lone gun, which is the one thing that I don't tolerate. I’m actually very proud of my guys."

The West Virginia Public Service Commission has released several pages of violations by Columbia Gas.

There were several found in the Sissonville area: including failing to inspect valves and failing to take steps to prevent accidental ignition.

NTSB officials say the pipe that ruptured was installed in 1967, and was heavily corroded.

For a look at the documents released by the NTSB, go to http://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms/search/hitlist.cfm?docketID=54392&CFID=19494&CFTOKEN=29429721



UPDATE 6/6/13 @ 10:30 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Federal investigators are releasing more than 1,400 pages of documents about a natural gas pipeline explosion in Sissonville, but they won't reveal the cause.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday's document dump will contain interview transcripts, photos and other facts collected during the continuing investigation.

They say conclusions about the December explosion will come when the final investigation report is finished.

A 20-inch transmission line owned by Columbia Gas Transmission ruptured Dec. 11, 2012, near Interstate 77.
The blast hurled a 20-foot section of pipe more than 40 feet.

No one was killed or seriously injured. But the explosion and resulting fireball destroyed several homes and cooked a stretch of turnpike.

Preliminary investigation found the decades-old pipe had corroded, losing 70 percent of its original thickness.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.




Listen to the 911 recording from when the explosion occurred








Listen to Senator Jay Rockefeller react to the explosion, and what he hopes to do in the future









UPDATE 1/28/13 @ 8 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is calling on federal regulators to implement quick and efficient pipeline safety reforms.

At least 100 people attended a Senate Commerce Committee meeting Monday at the federal courthouse in Charleston.

"Everyone has to be accountable to someone else ...There have to be limits, have to be rules," Rockefeller said.

The senator brought the meeting to Charleston following the Dec. 11 incident where a 20-inch line owned by NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission exploded, triggering a massive fire that destroyed several homes, damaged several others and scorched Interstate 77.

"The natural gas industry is thriving in West Virginia. And its growth is literally fueled by pipelines, which are the conduit between gas development in our region and the rest of the country," Rockefeller said. "But we have an enormous responsibility to make sure we're doing all we can to keep the public safe. Oversight is vitally important. We can't afford anything less than absolute diligence."

Several people testified during Monday's meeting including, Debbie Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); Cynthia Quarterman, administrator for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA); Susan Fleming, director of Physical Structure Issues for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Jimmy Staton, executive vice president for NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage; and Rick Kessler, president of the board for The Pipeline Safety Trust.

Sue Bonham, a resident of Sissonville who lost her home in the explosion, also tearfully shared her personal story. Bonham took time to describe what she went through when the explosion happened.

The explosion was "so deafening I thought my ears would explode," Bonham testified.

Bonham testified a phone call kept her indoors just as the pipeline exploded. She's certain she otherwise would have died.

Bonham also described the heat from the explosion as suffocating.
She said she's now looking forward to moving forward with her life.

"I know that with everything that comes, you have to move forward and that's what we're trying to do," Bonham said.

Shirley McMillon also lost her home during the explosion. She too said she nearly missed death the day the fire destroyed her home.

"I was at a Christmas party when it happened with my daughter," McMillon said. "We left 30 minutes prior to the explosion, and I'm normally at home the time of day it happened."

McMillon and her family have been living at a nearby motel until they find a new home. Columbia Gas Transmission has been paying for the motel.

"Last month's incident in Sissonville was a startling reminder of the destruction that can occur when a pipeline ruptures," Rockfeller said. "Ms. Bonham provides a unique and important perspective as someone who was directly affected, and it's vital that we hear her points of view and keep them in mind. As we consider what steps are necessary moving forward, we must remember these are crucial decisions and policies that have real impact on people's lives."

During the Dec. 11 explosion, the fire damage extended nearly 1,100 feet along the pipeline and was about 820 feet wide.

Interstate 77 was also damaged by the fire. I-77 near that area was closed in both directions for about 18 hours until it could be repaired.

Cynthia Quarterman with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration testified the agency is currently investigating whether regulations were violated in the Sissonville incident, and it's working to improve existing regulations.

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Deborah Hersman also spoke Monday. Hersman said 2.5 million miles of gas pipelines stretch across the country and beneath its communities. She told the group pipelines have to be maintained, invested in and inspected to ensure safety.

Jimmy Staton, executive vice president for NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage, also had a chance to speak during the meeting. Staton testified the company plans to learn from the incident that happened in Sissonville.

"I vowed to them at that time that we would do right and we would make it right for the people of Sissonville," Staton said. "We would continue to make the right investments to our system to make sure it does not incur another incident like this -- I want to make that same commitment to you all today."

Staton said the explosion was "unacceptable," but the company operates with a daily commitment to safety.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/23/13 @ 12:12 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A Sissonville woman whose home was damaged by a pipeline explosion will testify at a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee field hearing on pipeline safety.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller released the witness list for the hearing on Wednesday. The West Virginia Democrat says Sue Bonham will testify first at the Jan. 28 hearing in Charleston.

Other witnesses include National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman and NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage executive president Jimmy Staton.

A 20-inch line owned by NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission ruptured on Dec. 11, triggering a massive fire that destroyed several homes, damaged several others and scorched Interstate 77.

Rockefeller is chairman of the Commerce Committee.



UPDATE 1/16/13 @ 3:15 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After weeks of investigating, the National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report Wednesday concerning the major gas line explosion in Sissonville.

The explosion happened at 12:41 p.m. on December 11, 2012.

The 20-inch diameter natural gas transmission pipeline ruptured near Route 21 and Derricks Creek ,about 112 feet west of Interstate 77. Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation owns the pipeline.

According to the news release, investigators found the Columbia Gas control center received its first notification about the explosion at 12:53 p.m. from another gas company, who was notified from a field technician. Prior to that call, the Columbia Gas controller received 16 pressure drop alerts, according to investigators.

The fire damage extended nearly 1,100 feet along the pipeline and was about 820 feet wide. In the end, three homes were destroyed and several others were damaged.

Interstate 77 was also damaged by the fire. I-77 near that area was closed in both directions for about 18 hours until it could be repaired.

No one was hurt.

During the investigation, experts say about 20 feet of pipe was separated and thrown from the underground pipeline and landed more than 40- feet from its original location.

The preliminary report also states that the operating pressure of the pipeline was at 929 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) at the time of the rupture. The pipeline's maximum allowable operating pressure was 1,000 psig.

The investigation also found the outside of the pipeline was heavily corroded.

Statement by Jimmy D. Staton, Columbia Gas Transmission EVP and Group CEO
"Today the National Transmission Safety Board (NTSB) issued its preliminary report on the investigation into Columbia Gas Transmission's December 11 incident in Sissonville, West Virginia.

"The NTSB has been swift in their response and thorough in its analysis.

"Columbia’s team has also been hard at work, as party participants, assisting the NTSB in examining our transmission line to obtain answers and identify the source of the pipeline failure.

"In addition, we have taken a number of specific steps, in coordination with the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the West Virginia Public Service Commission and other state and local authorities, to thoroughly test, inspect and verify the safety and operational integrity of our system in the Sissonville area.
We Continue to Work with NTSB.

"We will continue to work in close collaboration with the NTSB as the investigation continues. Columbia is committed to a thorough and complete analysis of all factors potentially contributing to the incident.

"Based on that analysis, we will continue to work with the NTSB and PHMSA -- as well as state and local officials -- to take all steps necessary to ensure the continued safety of our pipeline system. We will also implement appropriate measures based on the recommendations from the NTSB into our infrastructure modernization plan."

We Continue to Help Those Impacted By the Incident
"Our teams are doing everything they can to help each and every family in Sissonville impacted by this incident. We have been actively working with affected residents, charitable organizations, state and local agencies and emergency responders following the incident.

"Most importantly, we recognize that part of helping Sissonville residents is delivering on our commitment to safe operations. As we continue to restore the facilities that were damaged in the incident, we assure you that the transmission line will not be returned to service until the necessary repairs are made and it is thoroughly tested. We are committed to working with federal, state and local officials, the Sissonville community and our customers to appropriately restore service to our transmission line and make additional upgrades to enhance the reliability of our system across our entire footprint."

We Are Committed to Modernizing Our System
"Over the last several years Columbia has been working to make upgrades to our pipeline system across our entire footprint. In September of 2012, Columbia announced an additional long-term, $4 billion infrastructure investment plan for pipeline and system upgrades to improve public safety and increase customer reliability and service (Click to read news release). The initial five year phase of this plan – which has the effective support of all of our customers -- is currently awaiting approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). By working in conjunction with customers from across our pipeline system, we believe these efforts represent an integral part of the safe and reliable transportation of natural gas for decades to come.

"We are committed to keeping the communities where we operate safe and serving as a reliable source of natural gas transportation to our customers."



UPDATE 12/28/12 @ 10:32 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Local officials are asking regulators to go slow when it comes to restarting the natural gas pipeline that exploded in West Virginia earlier this month.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper and Deputy Emergency Services Director C.W. Sigman sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation on Friday outlining a number of concerns with the plan to restart the pipeline and asking for further study and testing before it is done.

Last week the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said the company could plan to restart the 26.2-mile segment of pipe after taking a number of steps including repairs and inspections.

The state Public Service Commission also gave the gas company a long list of demands that must be met before the pipe is restarted.



UPDATE 12/21/12 @ 1 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Federal regulators are ordering an immediate inspection and necessary repairs to a natural gas pipeline that was the source of a spectacular explosion Dec. 11 near Sissonville.

The order was by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It warns that the continued use of the pipeline without corrective measures would be hazardous to life and property and an environmental threat.

The 26.2-mile natural gas transmission ruptured 10 days ago about 15 miles outside of Charleston, destroying four homes and scorching an 800-foot section of Interstate 77. There were no serious injuries.

A spokesman for Columbia Gas Transmission did not immediately return a telephone message from The Associated Press.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not determined the cause of the explosion.



UPDATE 12/19/12 @ 12:10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Kanawha County officials say last week's pipeline explosion cost emergency responders and the state Division of Highways at least $212,000.

The bulk of the expenses, at least $165,000, are for repairing an 800-foot section of Interstate 77 that was cooked by the explosion near Sissonville.

NiSource spokeswoman Chevalier Mayes tells the Associated Press that the company will reimburse the county and the state for the costs of the response.

The 20-inch natural gas pipeline that ruptured is owned by NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.



UPDATE 12/18/12 @ 10 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Columbia Gas Transmission is working to restart a pipeline near the one that exploded last week near Sissonville and destroyed four homes.

The 30-inch line is within 200 feet of the line that ruptured, sparking a fire that cooked part of Interstate 77.

In a filing with the Public Service Commission, Columbia says a second 26-inch line that is nearby was restarted the night of the explosion. As gas began to flow back through that smaller line, workers patrolled the pipe on foot and helicopters.

The Associated Press says Columbia has a similar plan for the 30-inch line, which it hopes to restart Wednesday.

It's about 53 feet away from the exploded pipe, and Columbia says it can restart the flow without closing and disrupting traffic on I-77.



UPDATE 12/16/12 @ 1:10 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Regulators have debated requiring automatic or remote shut-off valves on natural gas pipelines long before the explosion that leveled homes and melted a West Virginia interstate.

Federal investigators say it took Columbia Gas Transmission more than an hour to manually shut off the gas that fueled Tuesday's massive inferno near Charleston.

An investigation is under way. The agency investigating the blast -- the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) -- has long advocated requiring valves that could shut off gas within minutes.

A law signed this year by President Barack Obama signaled support for the automatic valves, but it remains uncertain whether the final regulations will target only new lines or include 2.6 million miles of existing pipelines.

Keep clicking WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/13/12 @ 6 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The wall of the natural gas pipeline that exploded in Sissonville, W.Va. on Tuesday had deteriorated to less than a tenth of an inch thick, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed Wednesday evening.

The NTSB also said there was a sudden pressure drop in the pipeline just before the explosion but they still had not determined whether that caused the explosion.

The explosion and ensuing fire destroyed four homes, damaged at least five others and damaged an 800-foot stretch of I-77.

The 10-member NTSB team determined that the pipeline had lost seventy percent of its thickness in spots.

Pieces of the pipeline will be sent to Washington, D.C. for further examination.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/12/12 @ 8:20 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More than a day after a gas pipeline exploded Tuesday in northern Kanawha County, the NTSB released some preliminary findings in the first stages of its investigation.

The 10-member team said a section of the pipe was ejected during the explosion – a blast that was powerful enough to level several homes and burn a stretch of Interstate 77 so severely that the asphalt burned and crumbled down to its concrete foundation.

"That was a 20-inch transmission line, which transports gas from the Gulf of Mexico," said Shawn Tolle with Columbia Gas. "It's amazing how well this community was prepared in handling this unfortunate event."

Late Wednesday afternoon, the NTSB reported that the ruptured pipeline was actually located near two other large transmission lines.

"At first I thought it was a nuclear explosion," homeowner Darell Sigmond said.

He was in his melting home, along with his girlfriend, and tried desperately to escape out a back window.

"It seemed like an eternity; there was fire all around,” Sigmond said. “We just finally ran down the street and never looked back."

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, giving him jurisdiction over transportation and pipeline safety. He said as the details become available, he'll be pressing for answers to determine the underlying cause.

Now that it's over, Sigmon is faced with relocation. As to where, he's not sure just yet. The only requirement for his new home is simple.

"It has to be as far away from a gas line as possible," Sigmon said. “I don't care, as long as it's far away.”



UPDATE 12/12/12 @ 5:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va (WSAZ) -- National Transportation and Safety Board investigators said Wednesday, no alarms were activated at a control center, when a gas line exploded in Sissonville, West Virginia, Tuesday morning.

Investigators made the announcement during a news conference Wednesday evening, after a 10-member investigation team conducted a preliminary investigation at the blast site.

Investigators say the blast ejected a section of the pipe into the air. They are sending pieces of that pipeline to Washington D.C. for analysis.

The pipeline was located near two other large transmission gas lines.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/12/12 @ 12:15 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A 10-man crew from the National Transportation Safety Board in Sissonville is trying piece together exactly what caused a major gas line explosion.

The investigators main focus is to collect information and evidence.

The group responded to the accident site early Wednesday morning with a diagram of pipeline specifications. This is the area where at least four homes were destroyed during the explosion that happened just before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

According to a news release from Columbia Gas Transmission, the company also has incident response and investigation teams at the site. The teams are working closely with the community and emergency crews. They've also secured and isolated the damaged portion of pipeline and began assessing damages.

"As part of that effort, the company is cooperating fully with all appropriate state and federal authorities to conduct a thorough and complete investigation into the cause of the incident," Chevalier Mayes, Columbia Gas Communications Manager states in the news release. "Once the investigation is complete, we will work with the proper authorities to inform the public of the cause and to take any follow-up actions necessary to ensure the continued safe operation of our system."

The company also reports the explosion involved a 20-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline. According to the news release, the pipeline is part of the company’s network of transmission lines that transport and deliver natural gas primarily to local utility companies. Service to those customers was not affected by the incident.

Tuesday's fire destroyed four homes and at least five others have been damaged. Several people were treated for smoke inhalation, but no one was seriously hurt.

The blast also damaged an 800-foot section of Interstate 77. The road was shut down until early Wednesday morning until repairs were made.

Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox tells WSAZ.com he has never seen such determination to get a project done.

Mattox says they are not sure how much the repairs will cost, but until the state is paid back, the DOT will have to put other projects on hold. No word on what projects will be affected.

Meanwhile, dozens of people have taken advantage of the shelter set up at Aldersgate United Methodist Church on Route 21.

According to county leaders, volunteers fed more than 30 people and four spent the night at the church.

Volunteers say they are willing to help as long as they are needed.

According to a news release, Columbia Gas has also sent outreach teams to the area to help those affected.

The NTSB is expected to call a news conference at some point Wednesday to release more information.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

Statement from Columbia Gas CEO

Jimmy D. Staton, executive vice president and group CEO of Columbia Gas, released the following statement:

“Columbia Gas Transmission's priority is the safety of our communities and our employees. It is who we are and defines how we have operated in West Virginia for the last 100-plus years.

“Just before 1 p.m. today there was an incident near Sissonville, West Virginia. Thanks to the work of local first responders and our employees, the site where the incident occurred has been secured. We have a team of employees working with first responders and investigators to assess damages and determine the cause.

“We are thankful that there are no reports of injuries.

“We continue to work with our affected neighbors to accommodate their needs and provide them with any assistance that they may need. A community shelter is open and staffed at Aldersgate United Methodist Church for any residents needing assistance. We have teams of employees on the ground around Sissonville assisting residents for as long as needed.

“I want to personally acknowledge the first responders, Columbia employees and other local officials who worked together safely, seamlessly and swiftly to evacuate residents and secure the site. Our Columbia employees are still hard at work and will be for days to come to continue to ensure the integrity and normal operation of our system.”



UPDATE 12/12/12 @ 8 a.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The southbound lanes just reopened along Interstate 77 in Kanawha County after a major gas line explosion in Sissonville.

The explosion was reported just before 1 p.m. Tuesday near the Tuppers Creek exit off I-77.

The fire destroyed four homes and at least five others have been damage. Several people were treated for smoke inhalation, but no one was seriously hurt.

A team with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Charleston late Tuesday night to investigate the incident. Officials say the mission is to find out what happened and why it happened to prevent future accidents from happening.

"We are going to be all over the rupture site to try and document and look at it very carefully and in a few days will send in an expert look at the pipe and we will actually cut out a section and send to Washington, D.C.," said Robert Sumwalt, NTSB board member.

The 10-member crew will be here for about five to seven days.

The board is expected to have another press conference Wednesday.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/12/12 @ 7:40 a.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Paving was just completed on Interstate 77, but the southbound lanes remain closed after a major gas line explosion in Sissonville.

Traffic is still being diverted at the Haines Branch exit onto Route 21. Right now, traffic is backed up in that area.

The explosion was reported just before 1 p.m. Tuesday near the Tuppers Creek exit off I-77.

The fire destroyed four homes and at least five others have been damage. Several people were treated for smoke inhalation, but no one was seriously hurt.

A team with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Charleston late Tuesday night to investigate the incident. Officials say the mission is to find out what happened and why it happened to prevent future accidents from happening.

"We are going to be all over the rupture site to try and document and look at it very carefully and in a few days will send in an expert look at the pipe and we will actually cut out a section and send to Washington, D.C., Robert Sumwalt, NTSB board member said."

The 10-member crew will be here between five and seven days.

The board is expected to have another press conference Wednesday.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE @ 3:15 a.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Kanawha County emergency dispatchers tell WSAZ.com Interstate 77 Northbound and County Road 21 have reopened, and work continues on the Southbound lanes of I-77 after a gas line explosion near Sissonville.

Southbound traffic on I-77 is being diverted at the Haines Branch exit onto Rt. 21, then back onto the Interstate at Tuppers Creek Rd.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE @ 10:30 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- At least four homes have been destroyed and Interstate 77 has been damaged after a gas line explosion in Sissonville.

The fire was reported just before 1 p.m. Tuesday along Teresa Lane in Sissonville.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper tells WSAZ.com a major 20-inch gas transmission line exploded sending flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air.

Four homes have been destroyed and at least five others have been damaged, according to county leaders.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said two to five people have been taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation. Emergency crews say that there are no reported fatalities and that everyone has been accounted for, according to Tomblin.

Tomblin says the area has been evacuated within 1,000 feet of the explosion site.

"After looking at the damage, I'm grateful for the quick action of our local and state emergency responders who immediately called for a shelter in place," Tomblin said.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced it has launched an investigation into the explosion. NTSB team members, including NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt, are en route to Charleston.

Sumwalt will address the media about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at Yeager Airport.

According to a news release from NiSource, there was an incident in the vicinity of the Columbia Gas Transmission Lanham Compressor Station.

"Our first priority is the safety of the community and our employees," Mike Banas, Communications Manager stated. "The site where the incident occurred has been secured and the fire -- on a 20-inch transmission line -- has been contained."

A fiber optic line has also been damaged affecting phone lines in several states, according to Carper.

Right now, about 1,600 people are without power, but AEP is bringing in a transformer to help restore electricity. A shelter has been set up at Aldersgate United Methodist Church is Sissonville to provide food and shelter to families who can’t get home.

Mark Boggs says his mother was home alone when she heard the explosion.

“She told me she thought the world was ending,” Boggs said.

Nobody was inside any of the homes during the explosion, Sissonville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tim Gooch said.

“We're thankful it was in the early afternoon instead of late at night or early in the morning hours because there could have been a lot of people that lost their lives," Gooch said.

The flames shot across Interstate 77, severely damaging the road. Tomblin says an 800-foot section of the interstate was damaged during the blast.

I-77 from the Charleston split to the Pocatalico/Sissonville exit will remain closed through the night, but is expected to reopen Wednesday afternoon.

WVDOT reports 325 feet of each side of I-77 was damaged.

According to WVDOT, crews will mill down to the concrete and repave the road. Carper reports emergency crews have been brought in to help fix the road.

WVDOT tweeted the following late Tuesday night on Twitter:

"WV Paving crews working hard to repair I-77. Work will have to pause sometime during the night to allow gas company to test and repair line."

Crews at the scene tell WSAZ.com they are finished paving the northbound lanes late Tuesday night. They say they will not finish the southbound lanes until Wednesday morning because the gas company needs to run tests on other gas lines in the area.

DETOURS:
Southbound traffic: detour in Ripley onto Rt. 62 to U.S. 35 and then to Interstate 64. Southbound traffic can also detour at Parkersburg onto U.S. 50 to Clarksburg to I-79.

Northbound traffic: detour to I-79 to Clarksburg then to U.S. 50. Northbound traffic can also travel I-64 west to U.S. 35 to Rt. 62.

Route 21 is also closed. Crews say this road is expected to reopen tonight.

Statement Released from NiSource
"Just before 1 p.m. Eastern time today there was an incident in the vicinity of the Columbia Gas Transmission Lanham Compressor Station near Sissonville in West Virginia.

"Our first priority is the safety of the community and our employees. The site where the incident occurred has been secured and the fire - on a 20-inch transmission line - has been contained.

"We have a team of employees working with first responders to assess damages and we'll be working to accommodate the needs of affected residents. There are no anticipated impacts to customers. We are working to gather additional details and will share more information as it becomes available."

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/11/12 @ 3:55 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Kanawha County Board of Education is making plans to get Flinn Elementary, Sissionville High School and Sissionville Middle School students home.

A shelter in place was issued for the Sissonville area after a gas line explosion.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is holding a news conference at 4:10 p.m. at Sissonville High School.

We have a crew at the scene. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE @ 2:30 p.m.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- According to Metro 911, people in the area are being asked to shelter in place after a major gas explosion has been reported in Sissonville.

Sissonville Elementary is not being evacuated, but rather, sheltering
in place.

NGK Spark Plugs in Sissonville tells WSAZ.com that they are shutting down the plant for A and B shift. C shift is to report as scheduled.

Emergency crews at the scene tell WSAZ.com that the gas line has been capped.

Right now, the northbound lanes of I-77 are shut down at the I-77/79 split in Charleston. All traffic is being diverted to I-79N.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper tells WSAZ.com crews were called to what was described as a major gas line explosion in Sissonville.

The fire was reported just before 1 p.m. along Teresa Lane in Sissonville.

President Carper says fires have been reported in multiple locations. This explosion happened very close to Cedar Ridge Nursing Home, according to Carper.

So far no injuries or fatalities have been reported.

Drivers near the area say they can see flames shooting in the air.

Rt. 21 will be limited to emergency vehicles.

Sgt. Michael Baylous tells WSAZ.com the line belongs to Columbia Gas. Crews are currently on the scene.

A spokesperson with Mountaineer Gas says the line is not theirs, but the company does have crews helping to assist in the area.

Kanawha County Schools issued an automated message about 2:30 p.m. letting parents know who have children attending schools in the Sissonville area are safe and will remain at the school until the roads reopen.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is holding a news conference at 4:10 p.m. at Sissonville High School.

We have a crew at the scene. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE @ 1:30 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The northbound lanes of Interstate 77 are closed in the Sissonville area, from Tuppers Creek to Pocatalico due to what's being called a major gas line explosion.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper tells WSAZ.com crews were called to what was described as a major gas line explosion in Sissonville.

The fire was reported just before 1 p.m. along Teresa Lane in Sissonville.

President Carper says fires have been reported in multiple locations. This explosion happened very close to Cedar Ridge Nursing Home, according to Carper.

So far no injuries or fatalities have been reported.

Drivers near the area say they can see flames shooting in the air.

The northbound lanes of I-77 is shut down from Tuppers Creek to Pocatalico. Drivers are urged to avoid the area.

Emergency crews are re-routing traffic to Charleston. Rt.
21 will be limited to emergency vehicles.

A spokesperson with Mountaineer Gas tells WSAZ.com the line is not theirs, but the company does have crews helping to assist in the area.

We have a crew at the scene. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/11/12 @ 1:05 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper tells WSAZ.com crews were called to what was described as a major gas line explosion in Sissonville.

The fire was reported just before 1 p.m. along Teresa Lane in Sissonville.

President Carper says fires have been reported in multiple locations. This explosion happened very close to Cedar Ridge Nursing Home, according to Carper.

So far no injuries or fatalities have been reported.

Carper tells WSAZ.com emergency crews are still getting on scene, accessing the damage.

The flames can be seen along Interstate 77 near the Tuppers Creek exit. As a precaution, Interstate 77 at Tuppers Creek has been shut down.

We have a crew at the scene. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Kanawha County 911 Dispatchers tell WSAZ.com firefighters are on the scene of a gas fire.

The fire was reported just before 1 p.m. along Teresa Lane in Sissonville.

That's all the information they are releasing at this time.

Drivers near the area say they can see flames shooting in the air.

As a precaution, Interstate 77 at Tuppers Creek has been shut down.

Multiple agencies have been called to the scene.

We have crew headed to the scene. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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