Lightning hit a gas pipeline plant in Powell County Monday, causing natural gas and chemicals to spew.
The lightning hit at or near a building at the former Tennessee Gas Pipeline transmission station, now owned by Kinder Morgan, about 2:30 p.m., which activated an emergency shutdown system at the plant, said Daxon Caudill, deputy director of Powell County Emergency Management.
Caudill said safety valves blocked the gas transmission lines when the lightning struck, and then the lines had to be vented to release pressure, all of which is “supposed to happen” in such a circumstance.
Residents of the area probably heard sirens and may have seen natural gas spewing from the lines “to prevent an actual explosion,” Caudill said.
“I’m sure it was startling for the immediate area,” he said. He said no homes were evacuated.
“Representatives from Kinder Morgan are advising us on scene that the situation, along with the chemicals used to treat the incident, are safe to the public,” the Powell County 911 Dispatch Center said in a Facebook post.
Caudill said the Environmental Protection Agency was notified because natural gas levels were above what they should have been after the lines vented. Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection officials were dispatched to the scene, he said.
An area about an eighth of a mile around the plant was affected by the spray, which included natural gas, as well as compressor lubricant, Caudill said.
Caudill said about a one-mile stretch of road near the plant, which is on the western end of Powell County, was temporarily closed so that sand could be brought in to mitigate any slippery conditions from the spray.
He said representatives of Kinder Morgan had called the lightning strike “an unprecedented event.”