Residents continue to worry about natural gas leaks on 7th

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Seventh Street will once again be a normal neighborhood Friday night, back to full capacity now that all evacuated residents have been cleared to go home after Tuesday’s gas leak and explosion. Some, however, are finding being home comes with uncertainty.

Friday's good news of going home came with some added drama this morning. Around 9 a.m. Friday, Tope Elementary School was evacuated after reports of a natural gas smell in the area. Other residents on 7th Street have also been calling authorities with the same concerns. While some are celebrating being back home, it may be a while before life returns to normal.

Much has changed since Thursday, but inside Ron Lucero's house, things look the same as they did three days ago.

"[I’m] excited, we patiently waited,” he said. "I'm glad people are going to get back into their houses."

Friday morning, the last of the last evacuees were given the O-K to return to their homes. It started with a trip around his complex, relighting pilot lights and turning the power back on, all the while gas readings stayed at a comfortable zero.

“[I’m] glad that everyone is safe and we'd just like to get back in and return to our normal lives," Lucero said. “[I’ll be] watching a little television, a little golf and NASCAR, cleaning the house up."

"It's good that they have that egg smell in the gas so we can detect it," he added.

That gas, though, is still causing concern for many. Authorities say many residents are especially sensitive to natural gas in their homes following Tuesday’s explosion.

"People are still psychologically shook up," Xcel Energy spokesperson Fred Eggleston said. "It has escalated the number of calls the fire department and Xcel Energy has received on gas leaks."

Almost every time, the gas readings are coming up at zero, but Friday, that scare was justified. Tope Elementary School was evacuated after the fire department found some levels of natural gas in the sewer lines.

"Today we had an odor gas in the tope playground area," Grand Junction Fire Department PIO Mike Page said. ”[Crews] vacuumed the lines out here and removed the gas odor."

The school was deemed safe a short time later, but it's enough to make some residents stop and think, and wonder how long it's going to be before they're comfortable at home.

"We’re safe now. All conditions returned to normal," Eggleston said. "It will be up to them to get back to normal life."

Authorities also made the decision Friday afternoon to open 7th Street and Orchard Avenue back up. For those drivers using that route, they’re advised to drive with caution as there will still be crews in the area.

The city and Xcel Energy say they'll continue to monitor 7th Street in the coming weeks.

More good news as the third and final victim of Tuesday’s explosion has been released from the hospital. Casey Zabel is no longer a patient at a local hospital.

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