Officials: Shirley gas leak repaired; evacuees sent home

Officials say the Mastic-Shirley area is now safe and residents are allowed to return home, after a gas leak that prompted the evacuation of 900

SHIRLEY - Officials say the Mastic-Shirley area is now safe and residents are allowed to return home, after a gas leak that prompted the evacuation of 900 area homes was repaired.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said propane level readings in the area revealed very low levels of the gas, and by 10 p.m. Saturday, all evacuated residents were permitted to return to their homes.

Click 'NEXT' to hear from residents who were evacuated due to the leak.

Levy said a propane delivery driver discovered a broken valve in a 30,000-gallon tank near the Kohl's department store on Montauk Highway around 1:15 a.m. Saturday. He says the underground tank may have been about half-full at the time.

Residents who live in neighborhoods within a square mile of the shopping center were quickly evacuated. Officials say many residents drove themselves out of the area, while those without transportation were driven by police and fire departments.

According to authorities, between 6,000 and 9,000 gallons of gas may have spilled out into the air. Levy says the evacuations were a precaution because of the potential to ignite an explosion. LIPA also turned off generators and electricity in the area.

Officials closed stretches of Sunrise Highway, Montauk Highway and some other major roadways, causing heavy delays as traffic was rerouted throughout the day. The Long Island Rail Road also suspended service between Speonk and Patchogue, but train service was restored at around 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Nearly 20 fire departments and other agencies took immediate action, pouring water onto the tank to freeze it and prevent further leakage. Officials confirmed they were able to close the main valve at around 3:30 p.m.

The Red Cross set up a shelter at William Floyd High School where they said more than 150 people took refuge.

Anyone in need of urgent information or with questions can call Suffolk County's Office of Emergency Management at 631-852-4900.

AP wire services contributed to this report.

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