MATTOON -- A two-block section of Marshall Avenue just east of Lake Land Boulevard was evacuated for about two hours Thursday afternoon due to a natural gas leak.
Shift Capt. Robert Alexander of the Mattoon Fire Department said firefighters were dispatched at 12:35 p.m. to a report of a natural gas line being severed by earth work in the 1700 block of Marshall. Alexander said they evacuated the 1600 and 1700 blocks of Marshall as a precaution due to the heavy odor of natural gas in this area.
Firefighters and police officers closed this section of Marshall to traffic and went door to door in the neighborhood to let residents and businesses know about the evacuation. Dick Butler & Associates Insurance, Midwest America Credit Union, Security Finance and other businesses on the east side of Lake Land, adjacent to Marshall, closed during the evacuation.
Alexander said Ameren Illinois crews arrived at the scene, found the natural gas leak, capped the severed line, and began making repairs.
"We got the all clear. They could all go back to their homes," Alexander said of the evacuation order being lifted.
Engineer Michael Romine with the Mattoon Fire Department said the line break occurred at 17th and Marshall. He said the wind was blowing strong out the west, so firefighters initially focused on evacuating residents west of the leak. He said Ameren Illinois crews then had them expand the evacuation area as a precation.
Ameren Illinois spokeswoman Marcelyn Love said the leak occurred when a contractor performing boring work in the area hit one of the utility company's 2-inch natural gas mains. She said Ameren Illinois crews were able to safely shut off gas to this damaged main and then began making repairs to the line.
Marshall Avenue residents Ira and Robin Hawn and their visiting family members were among those evacuated from the neighborhood. Robin Hawn said they smelled the sulfur-like smell of natural gas in the air as a police officer arrived at their front door and told them that they needed to leave as a precaution.
"It really scared us bad. We all got shook up," Hawn said.