SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Aug. 17, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — Crews are on the scene of a major natural gas leak near the Grand America Hotel, and traffic and TRAX trains, buses and cars have been blocked from entering the area.
Traffic is closed between 500 and 600 South on Main Street.
“It’s an active situation and you want to avoid it,” said Audra Sorensen, Salt Lake City Fire Department spokeswoman, at about 10 a.m.
The precaution is because of a slight chance of igniting the gas and causing an explosion and fire, she said.
The hope is to avoid “any sparks, any cigarettes — anything that happens is a potential problem,” she said. “We are asking people to avoid the area. It will be a little bit before we find (the leak).”
The gas leak appears to be coming from the area of the parking strip next to the Grand America Hotel, Don Porter, Dominion Gas spokesman said. Some gas has migrated and is next to the building. Grand America Hotel is located at 555 Main St.
Porter said Dominion has a vacuum over the problem area, which both collects gas and tells them if they are getting closer to the underground leak.
Porter said the actual chance of explosion is limited to any area where the concentration of gas to air is 5 to 15 percent. It’s a narrow window, he said.
Sorensen said that in the ground, the gas concentration is 100 percent, but that natural gas is lighter than air, so rises and dissipates, limiting danger to people breathing the air. She suggested people might want to avoid walking dogs, which are closer to the ground, in any area where a leak is suspected.
Sorensen said evacuations of the Grand America were begun until it was determined the leak was outside the building, then guests and workers were allowed back in.
Carl Arky, spokesman for the Utah Transit Authority, said that while TRAX trains and buses are prohibited from the area, a bus bridge will be set up between the courthouse and 900 South. As soon as the leak is fixed, trains and buses will return to their normal routes and schedules, he said.
Gephardt Daily has a grew at the scene, and will update this information as new details become available.