Natural gas forces hotel evacuation -- again


by Catherine Holland

Video report by Ryan O'Donnell

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 6:23 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 27 at 11:54 AM

Map: Cactus Road & 28th Drive

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PHOENIX -- For the second morning in a row, natural gas forced the evacuation of a Phoenix Holiday Inn.

Nearly 24 hours after the first evacuation, hotel employees once again smelled natural gas, called 911 and woke their guests.

Fire crews again converged on the Holiday Inn at Cactus Road and 28th Drive. They went through the four-story hotel floor by floor, but this time they did not find any natural gas.

"There is no gas in the hotel or in the area at the time," Phoenix Fire Capt. Scott McDonald said.

According to firefighters, Southwest Gas is using a large device that looks kind of like a mounted gun to bleed the residual natural gas out of the ground around the site of Monday's repairs. When the pump was turned off for refueling at about 2 a.m., hotel employees once again noticed the rotten-egg smell of natural gas. It turns out what they were smelling was the residual gas.

"It's just because they had to shut that pump down for awhile; it's basically sucking all the natural gas out of the ground in the area," McDonald explained.

About 140 people were evacuated at 5 a.m. Monday after an employee smelled natural gas.

Evacuees spent about two hours outside before being transported to a different hotel.

Crews spent the day repairing an underground line and then placed the noisy pump to bleed off the residual gas. It's not clear how long that process will take.

Several roads in the area are closed.

No injuries were reported in either evacuation.

While natural gas is colorless and odorless, gas companies add a distinctive scent similar to the smell of rotten eggs to the line to help detect leaks.

Not only is natural gas potentially explosive, exposure to it can be dangerous.

Symptoms of natural gas poisoning, including headache, dizziness, nausea, irregular breathing and fatigue, can be relatively mild at first. Those symptoms get worse with prolonged exposure.