Columbia gas leak

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COLUMBIA - A punctured gas line caused large-scale evacuations in the heart of downtown Columbia Tuesday afternoon.

Columbia Police Department spokesperson Bryana Larimer said, around 11:25 a.m., someone who smelled gas around Ninth and Cherry streets told officers who were responding to call downtown.

"They immediately contacted Joint Communications and had the fire department come out," Larimer said.

Assistant fire chief Brad Fraizer said contractors working on Cherry Street across from Harpo's caused the leak when they punctured a 2 inch gas line.

Fraizer said police and firefighters immediately began evacuating all buildings within a half block of the leak.

"Our standard protocol is to evacuate the surrounding area and perform air quality testing, in this case, in the buildings around that area, to make sure gas hasn't migrated into them," he said.

Fraizer said tests showed the buildings were clear.

He said gas leaks can be very problematic.

"Well it's flammable. So our concern is that it's going to migrate into adjacent buildings and then cause another problem," he said. "So we're very careful to monitor and evacuate until we can confirm that the air quality is where it needs to be."

Ameren was also on scene to stop the leak and restore gas to surrounding buildings.

Adam Treutelaar, who works at Hudson Hawke barbershop, said people were still setting up for the morning when they were told to evacuate. 

"Before we really even knew what happened, there was a cop inside telling us we needed to get out."

He said police did a good job of evacuating the area.

"We actually had a guy with shampoo in his hair. We had to rush him out, get him checked out but I think they did a really thorough job clearing out the block," Treutelaar said.