Under watchful eye of Xcel, evacuees told to go home

Update 3:40 p.m.
Several dozen homes on Seventh Street between Orchard and Elm avenues remain evacuated this afternoon as officials struggle to vent natural gas.

Xcel Energy crews continue to test for gas in the area and have found several gas bubbles that aren’t dissipating as quickly as they’d like. Crews are drilling holes in the street to help the gas escape. Electricity remains turned off for customers between Seventh and Eighth streets and Orchard and Texas avenues, officials said this afternoon.

Anyone in the evacuation zone or without electricity can check in with the Red Cross at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 730 Mesa Ave., to receive a hotel voucher for tonight. Vouchers will be distributed until 7 p.m. Volunteers are going door-to-door this afternoon to make sure people who returned to their homes despite not having electricity are aware of the hotel vouchers.

Update 11 a.m.
Seventh Street remains closed to traffic from Elm Avenue to Bookcliff Avenue. Motorists should detour to First Street and 12th Street. There is no estimate yet on when Seventh Street will reopen.

Roughly 20 people huddled in the parking lot of a Grand Junction church this morning were told to return to their evacuated homes — many still without gas or electricity — provided they’re deemed safe to occupy by Xcel Energy.

A team of 35 Xcel workers fanned out this morning over evacuated areas, Xcel area manager Fred Eggleston told evacuees outside Seventh Day Adventist Church, 730 Mesa Ave.

“We ask you go home, unlock your doors and let our guys in to make sure it’s safe,” Eggleston said. “We’ll do the re-lights on the pilots.”

Eggleston said repairs were completed overnight on the ruptured gas line at Seventh Street and Orchard Avenue, which was believed to have caused Tuesday’s explosion at a nearby home.

“There is no more gas going into the sewer line, but we don’t want to turn (utilities) back on until we’re absolutely sure sewer gas is eradicated,” he said.

Homes in areas that are not deemed safe will remain evacuated. Electricity will be restored in areas deemed safe, hopefully by 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., Eggleston said.

An evacuation order stands this morning for residents along Seventh Street between Elm and Orchard avenues, according to the Grand Junction Police Department.

The cause of the gas leak is still under investigation, however a private company contracted by the city of Grand Junction was working at the intersection of Seventh Street and Orchard Avenue. Their crews were digging into the ground in order to upgrade the traffic light. It is most likely the gas line was hit, causing the leak and subsequent explosion.

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