Idaho officials order brief evacuation of about 10,000 people after reported gas pipeline explosion

Oct 12, 2023, 10:46 AM | Updated: 4:04 pm

MIDDLETON, Idaho (AP) — Authorities briefly ordered evacuations for most of the town of Middleton, Idaho, after they said a gas pipeline exploded at nearby rural intersection late Thursday morning.

The explosion happened when a worker using an excavator ruptured a 22-inch (56-centimeter) natural gas pipeline near the town of about 10,600 people, said Chief Deputy Douglas Hart of the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office. The excavator driver was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

The ruptured line is part of an interstate pipeline that carries natural gas through several states in the northwestern U.S. owned by the Williams Companies, a natural gas distributor. The pipeline had about 750 pounds of pressure per square inch (53 kilograms per square centimeter), so authorities evacuated an area of about 4 square miles (10.4 square kilometers) surrounding the break, Hart said, including the entire town of Middleton.

In an emailed statement, the Williams Companies disputed the local officials’ characterization of what happened and said workers “implemented shutdown procedures” and coordinated with first responders.

“There was no ignition, fire, or explosion associated with this incident and the cause is under investigation,” the company said.

Within minutes of the incident, area residents began posting on social media that they had heard an explosion and continuing noise. Some described it like the sound of low-flying jets.

“It was a pretty substantial explosion just due to the pressure in that line,” said Chief David Jones of the Middleton Fire Department Battalion. “The explosion was felt, and the gas flow could be felt about a mile away.”

The evacuation order was lifted a short time later after the sheriff’s office confirmed the gas to the line had been shut off, and residents were directed to “shelter in place” instead.

Roads in the area remained closed until workers with the natural gas company could fully cap off the broken section.

Middleton is about 33 miles (53 kilometers) west of Boise, Idaho.

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Idaho officials order brief evacuation of about 10,000 people after reported gas pipeline explosion