Gas tank leak shuts U.S. 522
A leaking 1,000-gallon propane tank in the 400 block of South Washington Street last Thursday closed U.S. 522 in Berkeley Springs for more than
It was the second time in nine days that the road was closed within the same general area.
Traffic was tied up for miles in both directions due to the propane leak, said Morgan County Sheriff Vince Shambaugh. Some motorists made their way to the back roads, but many big rigs sat in traffic for hours.
The call came in to Morgan County 911 Dispatch Center at 9:52 a.m. a propane tank leak at 422 South Washington Street near Whisner Avenue. The tank is owned by DeHaven Seven-Up Corporation but is located on neighboring property, Shambaugh said.
Units from Berkeley Springs, Hancock, Little Orleans, Great Cacapon and Reynolds Store Volunteer Fire Companies responded to the scene or handled calls for fire departments that responded. They called in police units at 10:15 a.m. he said.
Sergeant S. E. Davis and Corporal A. T. Peer of the West Virginia State Police and Morgan County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Tony Link responded to the call.
Homes, apartments and businesses in close proximity were evacuated as a precaution.
At 10:46 a.m., Blue Flame propane company representatives were on the scene. The company had a hard time burning off the extra propane, Shambaugh said.
Burning off the propane took a lot longer than expected, he said. Link met with PRO Officer Deputy Kevin Barney to coordinate re-routing school buses.
That section of U.S. 522 reopened around 3:15 p.m. when the propane had been burned off and the area was determined safe, Shambaugh said. Residents were allowed to return to their homes and businesses were permitted to reopen.
The road closure was unfortunate, but necessary, he noted.
The previous U.S. 522 closure on May 3 and 4 involved water line workers finding pre-dug holes and blasting cap wires for explosives near Warm Springs Café and Bakery.
The road was closed for three hours that Monday afternoon and again the next morning as a precaution.
It was determined the morning of May 4 that the dynamite had been exploded years before during construction and U.S. 522 was reopened.
Major traffic hub
Town of Bath Police Chief Craig Pearrell said that closing U.S. 522 shuts down a major traffic hub for four states covering a 20-mile radius.
The town did a traffic study on a Thursday afternoon some years back that counted over 6,000 vehicles heading south between the hours of 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., Pearrell said. Map Quest and other web sites are telling people to take U.S. 522 so they can save time driving.
“Everybody’s using it,” he said.
Pearrell felt that moving to a sign that warned approaching motorists about major road closures or heavy traffic congestion could become a reality here.
A better plan of action among departments about highway closures and better ways of communicating with the public when they occur would also help, he thought.
Pearrell said the local radio station did an outstanding job of letting people know what was happening. However, by the time it was announced, people were already stuck in traffic and it was too late, he said.
Secondary roads became congested as well because of all of the traffic that was traveling on them, Pearrell said.