OTTUMWA — A gas line was struck Thursday afternoon while crews were laying fiber optic cables.
At approximately 3 p.m. Thursday, LISCO crews struck a gas line at East Alta Vista Avenue and Elm Street after an equipment malfunction.
"The equipment that bores down and digs deep malfunctioned on the depth-reader," said Linda Stallone, vice president of customer relations for LISCO. "So we'll take that equipment out of service until we're satisfied that that malfunction has been fixed or replaced."
The company always works alongside utilities in public rights-of-way, Stallone said, using Iowa One Call to establish exactly where all utilities lie before work begins.
"So when we go in to do this kind of work, usually 99.9 percent of the time it's never a problem," she said. "This depth reader has to tell us how deep we are if we're going above or under utilities. It's an important piece of equipment."
Ottumwa Fire Capt. Bryan Carnahan said two homes were evacuated.
"We set up a perimeter to create a safe zone for Mid-American [Energy] to try to locate the leak," Carnahan said. "They're saying this could be quite a lengthy process because they have several lines running in that area and they don't know exactly which one was hit. They're trying to isolate the lines and shut the feeds off, then have crews come in and start digging, so it could be quite awhile."
Crews are asking the public to avoid the area, especially in their vehicles.
"They don't want any automotive traffic at all in this area because they're afraid it could ignite the leaking gas," he said. "Monitoring was done in some houses' basements to make sure there is no gas build-up in them."
Further details were not immediately available as of press time.