Gas leak shuts down Brooks, college provides free meal


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The Henderson Campus Center saw a lot more traffic than usual, on Friday, Jan. 31, due to a natural gas leak that led to a mandatory evacuation of Brooks and Walker residence halls. The leak in the gas line led to a complete replacement of a couple hundred feet of piping.

The damaged gas line brought heat to Brooks, Bentley and Schultz, along with the maintenance building. Multiple leaks were found in between the small pump house in front of Walker and in front of Brooks dining hall. The connection was finally made and heat began to run to the buildings at approximately 8:30 p.m.

According to Cliff Willis, director of physical plant, a physical plant employee operating a piece of equipment noticed a gassy smell outside of Brooks in the early morning and reported it to the Assistant Director of Physical Plant, Brian Gillette.  Gillette then called the National Fuel Gas Company.

At approximately 11 a.m., the natural gas company began their investigation and concluded that there was an unsafe amount of natural gas in the area. The investigators informed Gillette of the unsafe level of natural gas which, in turn, led Willis to call residence life, safety and security, Parkhurst and school administrators to inform them of the problem.

“I’m pretty proud of the folks on campus because physical plant worked with residence life, with Parkhurst, with security, with our executives [the administration] and the student body,” Willis said. “Everything came out very nicely.”

The cost for fixing the entire pipeline is still unknown, however, the bill from the natural gas company came to be $4,000.

Friday at lunch in McKinley’s Dining Hall generally sees a lot more traffic because of the local middle and high schools that come to Allegheny, said Lori Chiodo, director of retail dining. This particular Friday saw an even larger culmination of people with approximately 500 students who had been evacuated from Brooks and Walker, along with 130 kids from the county band.

“They [McKinley’s staff] got a phone call up here to say that it happened to forewarn them, and they were just in the middle of what they normally do on Fridays,” Chiodo said. “[The rush] just kind of lasted longer than it does.”

Though the large traffic in McKinley’s may be concering, the dining hall is capable of feeding everyone on campus for lunch or dinner.

“I wouldn’t want to wait in the lines, personally, but yeah, they could [feed everybody],” Chiodo said.

The college decided to provide a free meal to the students

“They had a lot of cleanup to do at Brooks, because during that evacuation everyone just left everything out,” Chiodo said.

Even though the McKinley’s staff was under a lot of pressure, Chiodo felt that everything went smoothly.

“I was so proud of them,” Chiodo said. “Normally the Friday staff is a little stronger because we have all those extra groups on Friday at lunch, but to seamlessly do the rest of the campus and nobody had a problem, nobody got hurt, nobody got burnt out. Everybody was pretty much really proud of how well they had done it.”

Kylen Tennies, ’14, was very impressed with how Parkhurst responded to the incident.

“I thought it was awesome,” Tennies said. “The food was free and really tasty. They didn’t have to do it for us because we have McKinley’s and you could tell they worked really hard.”

The free meal fed the mouths of 1,265 students, according to Chiodo.