Grimes Gas Leak Becomes Bigger Problem

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The situation in southeast Grimes County has worsened after a Tuesday afternoon natural gas explosion. Winds that had been taking the gas away from area residents have died down, and a flammable cloud has settled over the area.

Entergy has shut down electricity in the affected area, which is just south of the Texas RenFest grounds. Residents have been ordered to evacute and were sheltered at Plantersville Catholic Church Tuesday night.

Local officials are waiting on special equipment from Corpus Christi in order to close the leak.

Just down FM 1774 in Todd Mission on Tuesday afternoon, local authorities and residents gathered, including one woman who was at her home across the street from the spectacle.

"Just heard a massive explosion," said Melissa Dunn. "My windows rattled and I went outside. The noise was just unbearable."

The noise was like that of a jet engine on a runway. The volume of noise was near-ear-piercing, all eminating from a tornadic plume of white gas pouring into nearby woods.

"The railroad commission requires the operators to conduct a fluid level test once a year," said Charles Marino, general manager of Italian American Oil Company. "It's called an 8-15, and that's what we were doing."

What Marino and his crew didn't expect was a stuck valve that became far too un-stuck...2,600 pounds per square inch unstuck. Prevailing winds carried the sweet natural gas north, away from area residents.

Though FM 1774 was shut down for about an hour after the early afternoon explosion, it was soon reopened while workers tried to stop the leak. Initially, around nearby 25 homes and 50 people were evacuated by Grimes County authorities.

"We have a lot of gas that runs through Grimes County, like a lot of counties do," said Sheriff Don Sowell. "We're aware of what to do. Knock on wood, it's been a relatively safe scene so far."

"I won't say it's the first one we've ever had, but it's almost the first one," said Marino, referring to the frequency of gas leaks. "We've had maybe one or two others."

But this one won't soon be forgotten in Grimes County.

The state Railroad Commission will be investigating the leak.

Italian-American Oil Company is based out of Tomball.