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Possible butane leak causes highway closure near Pratt

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt County Sheriff's deputies continue to stop traffic on U.S. Highway 54 west of Pratt on Monday morning due to a gas leak detected Sunday evening. Road barricades remain in place at 30th West and 54 as of 10:30 a.m.

Pratt Emergency Management and the Pratt County Sheriff's Department continue to monitor traffic on U.S. Highway 54/400 with a section of that road still closed between Pratt and Greensburg on Monday morning, due to a possible butane leak that was detected Sunday evening on a cross-country pipeline that goes under the highway about 7 miles west of Pratt.

"U.S. 54 between Pratt and Greensburg remains closed this morning, Monday, January 27. Motorists should seek another route," said Tim Potter, Public Affairs Manager from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Potter confirmed that the main thoroughfare highway through south central Kansas is closed from the intersection of 54/30th West all the way west to Greensburg, but he was not able to provide additional information as to the length of time the road would remain closed.

Pratt City Fire Department was on the scene throughout the night on the west edge of Pratt, monitoring levels of butane in the air, as it was a dangerous situation.

"The weather conditions last night were as bad as they could be for a situation like this," Kramer said. "The air was very heavy, high humidity, no air movement, so the gas that was leaking just hung there and was drifting slowly towards Pratt. It was a big concern so we set up our monitors west of Pratt and were there until about 5:30 a.m. when a breeze came in and lifted the gas away."

Kramer said butane was a gas similar to propane in that is heavier than air. He did not know how the leak in the pipeline was discovered or what was being done to fix the situation.

Pratt County Emergency Management Director Tim Branscom said he would be conducting a press conference at 11:45 a.m. on Monday morning at the cement mixing station just west of Skyline School on U.S. 54/400 Highway. He said points to be addressed at the news conference would be what happened and stepped taken to insure public safety.

Branscom said emergency personnel were testing homes in the area that had been evacuated to make sure gas levels were no longer an issue and then they would be allowed back in their homes.

Unofficially, 22 homes were evacuated late Sunday as a result of the gas leak.

Barricades and road blocks remain in place at U.S. 54 and 30th West, as well as at various side roads in the area. Many side roads are dirt and sand and not conducive for heavy traffic, so anyone trying to avoid road blocks by taking an unprescribed detour is discouraged from doing so at this time.