WINCHESTER — A natural gas leak in the area of the Winchester Highway 99N Road Improvement Project closed a portion of Highway 99 on Monday afternoon, impacting traffic and school buses in the area.

An Avista repair crew was called to the scene to repair the break that happened in the construction zone where two bridges have been replaced after a gas line was apparently hit during the construction work, according to Denny Austin, transportation supervisor for the Roseburg school district.

Employees at the Winchester Elementary School said they smelled gas at the school Monday afternoon, but that it did not impact classes.

Austin confirmed classes were let out at the regular time, but Douglas County Public Works blocked off a portion of Highway 99 between Taft Drive and Page Road in the Winchester area.

“We were actually transporting some SPED (special education) students when we first discovered they were going to block the road, so I think our bus contractor was the first to make Avista aware that they had a breach in their gas line,” Austin said.

Some of the Winchester students who live in the Saddle Butte area had to be dropped off at a different spot, but Austin said people in the park were quick to open up a fence off of Sydney Street, so residents could come and pick up their kids at the drop point.

Austin said that was the only change that the buses had to make.

“It impacted, not only Winchester students but also the secondary kids from Jo Lane and the high school,” Austin said.

Austin said the leak was close to Strauss Avenue about halfway between Taft Drive and Page Road.

Tuesday morning buses were on regular routes and schedules, Austin said.

On Sept. 18, approximately 222,240 gallons of raw sewage spilled into the North Umpqua River when the same contractor at the site hit a sewage line shutting down the highway.

Calls to Douglas County officials were not immediately returned by deadline.

Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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