BROOKSVILLE — Florida Gas Transmission told the fire and sheriff’s departments to expect a lot of noise and 911 calls Friday morning.
But not all who live or drive along Sunshine Grove Road received a heads-up about the pipeline purging project that would send a stream of gas the height of a telephone pole screaming out of the ground.
“The kids were scared to death,” said early childhood educator Linna Blevins. “It was like a dozen jets hovering over the house. We had no idea what it was. I didn’t know whether to take the kids to school or not.”
Gas fumes hovered in the air as far west as Weeki Wachee. Motorists pulled to the sides of Sunshine Grove Road amid squad cars and flashing lights.
Families evacuated their homes with their dogs, Blevins said, unsure of what was happening, where to go, or what to say to their children. Some prayed.
“This cannot happen again; this is ridiculous to scare people to death, and how does this give us confidence in our emergency management team?” Blevins said. “By the time I got to day care my great grandson, 5 years old, said somebody blew it up with a bomb.”
Not that it’s uncommon for gas companies to perform such purging projects, said Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Carroll. It’s just uncommon for those projects to take place in Hernando County.
“I can’t remember the last time that this occurred in this area,” he said. “They were anticipating people would smell it, and hear loud noise, and that people would be calling.
“That’s all we’ve been notified thus far.”
Tampa Electric Company officials said they do not know of any similar projects taking place in the future.
The daughter of a coal miner, Blevins, 75, recalled a similar sound from her youth that signaled something was wrong. She said she lived through the blackouts of World War II, when she was trained to spot planes as an air raid warden.
“All kinds of things pop into your mind, and if indeed this is what they said, they should have notified people in the paper, on the television that this was going to happen,” she said. “We’ve always lived in perilous times; there have always been dangers. But I feel information is our best weapon. Information is our best defense.”
Calls made to the Florida Gas Transmission representative working with the county were not returned.