BROOMFIELD - The gas-line break that shut down U.S. 36 in the Broomfield area for several hours on Tuesday is one of hundreds that are expected to occur during the summer months, an Xcel Energy spokesman said.
Construction workers hit a 3-inch gas line, forcing Xcel crews to make emergency repairs.
Xcel is reporting a significant spike in gas line accidents so far in 2013, and we could be heading toward a record-breaking year for gas-line accidents, according to spokesman Mark Stutz.
"You're in the height of construction season," Stutz said.
More construction usually means more accidents.
"This time of year, with the height of the construction season, we do get sometimes dozens of line cuts in a day. It's a constant concern for us," Stutz said.
Stutz says every time excavators don't call 811, the number to learn the location of underground lines, they're putting themselves and the surrounding area at risk.
There are nearly 37,000 miles of underground pipelines in Colorado. Xcel says 1,095 line cuts were caused by third-parties last year statewide, resulting in $1.6 million in damage.
"The numbers are up," Stutz said.
This year is on track to see a 38 percent increase in line cuts.
"You're starting to see more construction projects, more roadwork," Stutz said.
There is also another danger inside your home.
Broken furnaces, water heaters and stoves can leak out gas, triggering explosions like one in Westminster that leveled a home and damaged several others on June 15.
"They need to get [appliances] checked out at least once a year," Stutz said.
In the last 10 months, there have been at least 10 major accidents involving gas, including Wednesday's incident in Broomfield and last month's house explosion in Westminster.
Flames shot from a gas pipe in Greenwood Village for more than one hour when crews hit a line on June 5.
A gas leak in Aurora on May 29 created a visible gas cloud.
A house exploded on March 19 in Grand Junction injuring three people and forcing evacuations.
A gas leak at an apartment building triggered an explosion on March 18 that injured six people, one with critical burns.
Four families were displaced in Arvada on March 3 when a contractor hit a gas line, disrupting heat and electricity.
A natural gas leak is thought to have caused two explosions in an elderly woman's house in Boulder on February 10.
On January 10 in Littleton, crews severed a high pressure gas line sending a large gas plume into the air and forcing evacuations off C-470 near Santa Fe.
And on October 12, 2012 in Castle Rock, a gas explosion leveled a house and severely damaged several others, injuring five people including four children and forcing four families from their homes.
Jan Whitt smelled gas at her home in Superior on Tuesday, but says getting answers from Xcel was next to impossible.
"I was concerned and my neighbors who have young children and are home during the day were especially concerned," Whitt said. "I called Xcel no fewer than five times during the day and nobody had any information."
Xcel is investigating how to better inform customers during future events.
"In hindsight, we probably might have done a better job communicating with those who work with our customers to get more information out there. That's one of the things we're working on right now," Stutz said.
Communication is what Xcel says can also prevent line cuts like this from causing so much chaos.
The incident in the Broomfield area was one of two major gas line accidents on Tuesday.
Third-party work crews ruptured another line which led to a leak late Tuesday night, forcing road closures in south Jefferson County.
The number to remember is 811. Always call before you dig. For more information, call (303) 359-8358 or visit: www.xcelenergy.com/safety
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