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Gas leak forces shutdown of US 41 for hours during rush hour

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) -  A natural gas leak forced the closure of the very busy US 41 in both directions for 3 hours on Monday afternoon.  Fire officials first got the call around 3:30.

"It's a major line, it's one of the supply lines the four inch high pressure line that is buried down deeply," said Chief Michael Regnier with the Sarasota County Fire Department.  "They were doing construction work in the area and accidentally nicked that line.

Traffic to the north of the gas leak was diverted at Beechwood Drive, to the south the detour was set up at Stickney Point Road.  Officials say a few businesses nearby had to be evacuated because of the flammable nature of the gas.  Even though the gas leak was near Gordon Food Service Store, the store's assistant manager Richard Beckett says they didn't have to evacuate.  But their wholesale store that supplies food for restaurants and the public lost quite a bit business while US 41 was shut down.

"We haven't had any customers since about 4, 4:30 in that area so from a sales standpoint not good, but from a productivity standpoint we got a lot of other things done," said Beckett.

The gas leak initially could not be stopped, so crews were forced to dig and shut off valves down the road on both sides of the leak.  Outside of the major traffic delays and minor evacuations, officials say there weren't any other issues caused by the leak.

"The good thing is that nobody's hurt and we're going to try and keep it that way and make sure that everybody remains safe," said Regnier.