About four blocks in Preston were closed down for a few hours on Wednesday, Aug. 20, surrounding the area affected by a gas leak. Emergency and city vehicles block off Fillmore Street and emergency personnel stand by in the affected area.  BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
About four blocks in Preston were closed down for a few hours on Wednesday, Aug. 20, surrounding the area affected by a gas leak. Emergency and city vehicles block off Fillmore Street and emergency personnel stand by in the affected area. BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
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Preston received a rather unpleasant wake-up call on Wednesday, Aug. 20. As workers continued plugging away on the street project currently underway in both the business and residential areas of downtown Preston, the contractor hit a gas main on Houston Street, according to Jim Bakken, Preston's public works director.

Though he himself happened to be out of town during the event, he was able to inquire about the situation from one of the gas company's workmen as they completed temporarily patching up the damaged main.

"The contractor doing the street project hit a one inch coupling on a three-inch gas main on Houston Street between Main Street and Fillmore Street," he related. Minnesota Energy Resources contact, Rory Lenton, stated the contractor had just moved a gas line the day before and still had a pipe protruding from the ground to mark the location. This is what was accidentally sheared off at about 8:40 a.m.

Following protocol, 911 was summoned and the gas company notified. Firemen evacuated both businesses and homes in that neighborhood, as well as city hall, until the problem could be remedied.

For several hours that morning, roads were blocked off to ensure no cars or unauthorized personnel could be harmed by the gas leak. Meanwhile, those living and working within blocks of the leak could see the activity and catch a tremendous whiff of the problem merely by opening their front door.

The source of the leak was found near the alley in the 100 block of Houston Street South. In order to prevent the disruption of services to the rest of the community, Minnesota Energy Resources continued to let the gas flow in spite of the leak.

"They closed off about four blocks for several hours while the gas company got repairs done temporarily. The evacuation area included homes, businesses and Preston City Hall. A welder completed the repairs and the evacuation order was lifted in the afternoon," Bakken noted.

Gas continued to flow until the early afternoon, however it was by no means a major amount.

Work on the temporary repairs lasted until shortly after 1 p.m. and residents and businesses were able to go back to their daily routines. Minnesota Energy Resources was expected to fix the gas main permanently on Aug. 21.

“The Preston Fire Department did an exceptional job at working with us during the gas leak,” Lenton expressed.