UPDATE: Part of I-77 reopens at site of gas line explosion - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Part of I-77 reopens at site of gas line explosion


UPDATE: SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (AP) -- Part of Interstate 77 in West Virginia has reopened after crews worked through the night to repair damage from a massive natural gas line explosion and fire.

Tuesday's inferno destroyed four homes and damaged others. It melted guardrails and left a huge swath of the interstate in Sissonville impassible. Nobody was killed, but several people were treated for smoke inhalation.

Northbound lanes of I-77 reopened early Wednesday. Southbound lanes remained closed.

A roughly 800-foot section in both directions was baked by the heat.

Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said crews were removing asphalt and grinding the roadway down to the original concrete before repaving. The state hopes to have the highway reopened in both directions by Wednesday night.

Federal and state officials are investigating what caused the explosion.


UPDATE: CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin surveyed the gas line fire damage first-hand this afternoon in the Pocatalico and Sissonville areas of Kanawha County just hours after the rupture.

"After looking at the damage, I'm grateful for the quick action of our local and state emergency responders who immediately called for a shelter in place," Gov. Tomblin said.

Preliminary reports indicate two people suffered minor injuries. Initial damage reports from the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management indicate four homes have been completely destroyed, five homes have suffered significant exterior damage and a community shelter is open at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Sissonville.

The fire seriously damaged Interstate 77, both north and southbound. The Division of Highways has closed Interstate 77 North at the I-77/79 split in Charleston and I-77 South at the Pocatalico Exit. In addition, Route 21 from Charleston to Pocatalico is closed. The Division of Highways is working to pave and re-open portions of the interstate as soon as possible. In the meantime, DOH suggests the following detours.

Southbound traffic: detour in Ripley onto Rt. 62 to U.S. 35 and then to Interstate 64. Southbound traffic can also detour at Parkersburg onto U.S. 50 to Clarksburg to I-79.

Northbound traffic: detour to I-79 to Clarksburg then to U.S. 50. Northbound traffic can also travel I-64 west to U.S. 35 to Rt. 62.


SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (AP) -- A major gas line has exploded in West Virginia, burning five homes and shutting down a stretch of Interstate 77 in Sissonville.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper says flames shot 50 to 75 feet high before the fire was put out around 2 p.m. on Tuesday. He says it's not yet clear whether anyone has been hurt.

Sissonville Fire Chief Tim Gooch says patients at a nursing home not far from the blast near Sissonville are safe.

Gooch says all the burning structures appear to be residential. He says the heat and fire were so intense that firefighters couldn't immediately get close.

State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous says the blast occurred about 12:40 p.m. Tuesday. Crews were working to shut off the pipeline.

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