If you were anywhere near the north side of campus on Wednesday, September 8th, you probably noticed a distinct foul odor in the air.
At approximately 1:45p.m., Plumb Construction Company struck an underground gas line located behind Lyte Auditorium.
A six-inch pipe was ruptured, and gas began leaking into campus air.
At 1:56p.m., the MU text alert system sent all registered students a message reading, “Gas leak on campus. Stayer, Lyle, Gilbert, Bard and Gaige have been evacuated. Check website for details.”
By 2p.m., all construction on the north side of campus was halted. Brett Kolk was working behind Lyle hall with other construction workers when they were asked to stop. “Normally they want you to shut down all of your equipment because there’s sparks going on and they don’t want anything to ignite,” he said.
Evacuated students congregated in the shade behind President McNairy’s house and in the lower level of the Prince Street Parking Garage to escape the summer heat.
Megan and Samantha Ganter sat in the shade behind Gilbert surveying the scene with their parents. Megan Ganter was inside her dorm when the leak occurred. “I just walked out and then when I got outside my friend said it was a gas leak. They kept shoving us further [towards Lyle].”
By 2:15p.m., gas service to all buildings on campus was suspended while workers attempted to repair the break.
Jen Hill, student manager of the North Side Bistro, stood on the hill facing Lyle with a group of workers, while they waited for the all-clear. “We were all doing out clean-up duties… and all the sudden [the alarm went off.] We thought it was a drill, and our boss told us to leave. And then we came outside and smelled the gas,” Hill said.
Erika Hargrove, Dining Services worker, was also inside the Bistro at the time of the leak. Hargrove said, “We left, we came out and that’s when we started smelling the gas. I yelled over to maintenance, ‘Did you guys do this?’ and they said ‘Yeah, it’s not a drill.”
During the gas leak, the University website temporarily redirected visitors to an emergency site that listed emergency contact
numbers and updates on the situation. Most users found the website hard to access as the system was overloaded.
In addition to canceled classes in Stayer, the evacuation of Lyle forced the Registrar’s office to extend the drop/add deadline until September 9th.
Dr. Susan Northwall, Health Services medical director, said that no injuries were reported to Health Services concerning the leak. “We did have a few phone calls. Certainly people if they smelled or inhaled a little bit of gas sometimes people will get a little irritation of the eyes, nose, or the throat. Sometimes people will get a little bit of a headache or they might get a bit tired from [the gas],” she said.
Around 3p.m. students were informed that the gas leak had been contained. At 3:45p.m., two hours after the incident began, students were finally allowed to re-enter the evacuated buildings.