A flagperson prevents vehicles from travelling along Vernon’s 32nd Street Wednesday afternoon because of a natural gas leak. Motorists were forced to find alternate routes because of the incident.

A flagperson prevents vehicles from travelling along Vernon’s 32nd Street Wednesday afternoon because of a natural gas leak. Motorists were forced to find alternate routes because of the incident.

Gas line break closes Highway 97

A potentially explosive situation had Vernon traffic heading in all directions.

A potentially explosive situation had Vernon traffic heading in all directions.

Officials closed down 32nd Street (Highway 97) from 43rd to 39th avenues from 2 to 4 p.m. after a construction backhoe ripped open a natural gas line.

““It’s the main route through town so it’s very busy there,” said Gord Molendyk, RCMP spokesperson.

Flagpersons prevented vehicles from entering the impacted area and long lines of motorists made their way on to side streets.

The incident occurred when a backhoe came into contact with a three-inch gas line at the old Waddy’s restaurant site.

“That’s a fairly large gas line,” said Jack Blair, Vernon deputy fire chief.

Firefighters were on scene trying to ensure that a spark from equipment didn’t ignite the blaze and  create an explosion and fire.

“There is always the potential on construction sites,” said Blair.

“When there is a rupture, the gas can also follow the line into the building and create pockets.”

The incident wrapped up shortly before 4 p.m.

“As soon as Fortis crews arrived on scene, they shut it off,” said Blair of the natural gas.