WILLMAR -- Nearly 20 north Willmar homes were evacuated late Tuesday morning, and senior citizens moved out of danger after a two-inch natural gas line was cut.
The incident happened at about 10:45 am when a utility crew hit the line on County Road 41, which is also known as the Radio Station Road.
The high traffic road was blocked for about four hours while crews from CenterPoint Energy made repairs.
Winds were blowing fumes into a nearby residential area where the line was cut.
That prompted the Willmar Fire Department to go door-to-door to inform people about the potential danger and to move people to "a safe refuge," said Willmar Fire Chief Marv Calvin.
Because of the strong odor of mercaptan that was released, Calvin said residents from 19 homes in a two-block area "were told to leave" and go to a "safe area" until the situation was resolved.
Residents in an additional two-block area were "advised they should leave but not told they had to leave," he said.
Elderly residents at Copperleaf Senior Living were moved to the west side of the building as a precaution "in case the wind switched," said Calvin. "They were never in any danger. It was totally voluntary."
There were reports of the odor being detected on the southeast side of Willmar, along Lakeland Drive and by the flags of honor, but Calvin said there was no danger to residents there.
Because the line that was cut was a supply line, and not just a residential line, the repairs were complicated and took time to complete. Calvin said CenterPoint had two crews at the scene, including workers from Willmar and Alexandria.