October 23 began like every other day does. Nevertheless, around 9 am, an announcement abruptly interrupted the normality, declaring the start of a “modified lockdown drill.” That announcement was the initiation of concern for students and teachers alike. Why weren’t we allowed to leave the building? This wasn’t a planned drill — what was going on? Not long after the first announcement, Principal Ronngren came on the intercom for the second time, informing the school that there was a gas leak near the south end of the building, but everything was under control. He promised to keep us updated as the day progressed.
Students began panicking. Where was the leak? What kind of gas was leaking? What had happened? Why couldn’t we just go home?
Throughout the day, various other updates were released: the second floor was to be evacuated, so all students and staff were moved to the downstairs half of the building. Students and teachers were to stay in the hallways of the first floor or the commons until their classrooms were cleared for entry. At around 1 pm, the final announcement of the day proclaimed the “all-clear” and the second floor was reopened for entry.
Some questions from earlier that day were answered; the leak was on the corner of 20th and J just outside the school, and the gas was propane. No one was allowed to leave the building (or enter it for that matter) for fear of breathing in too much of the gas. Despite those answers, exactly what had happened remained unclear.
For the fire officials outside, the day was spent trying to find a solution. Typically, a gas leak would have been resolved by crimping the ends of the pipe together to cease the stream. However, because the pipeline was so old, crimping the ends could have resulted in cracking the pipe in other places, and thus, making the leak worse. The officials decided to call in a welding specialist to fuse in a shut-off valve into the gas line that was penetrated.
No gas entered the building; everyone was safe from everything but boredom. After about 4 hours, the mini-crisis was resolved, and the pipeline was sealed. Students who were trapped at the middle school or in the P.E. field house were able to return to the high school, and students and teachers quarantined downstairs returned to their upstairs classrooms. Everything reverted back to normal, and our unusual day ended like every other day does.
**Tune in to youtube.com/ahslive to watch The Rock on October 31st! A more in-depth explanation of Wednesday’s events will be posted.