The Brainerd Fire Department was on the scene of a gas line leak in Baxter Wednesday afternoon. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
People rushing to get their last-minute Thanksgiving dinner shopping in or heading out of town for the holiday Wednesday met a roadblock in Baxter after a broken natural gas line closed off parts of Edgewood Drive and Highway 371 for more than three hours.
The cut gas line, reported at 2:35 p.m., happened in the ditch between Highway 371 and Edgewood Drive in front of Wal-Mart after a crew trenching in the ditch hit the gas line.
Officers from the Baxter Police Department, the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department and the Brainerd Police Department closed the southbound lane of Highway 371 for about three hours, leaving the scene at 5:40 p.m.
Firefighters were on standby at the scene as a safety precaution while a CenterPoint Minnegasco crew fixed the broken gas line.
"It was one of their major lines, that was the main issue" in prolonging the line repair, said Fred Underhill, acting Brainerd fire chief.
Officers diverted traffic on the busy Highway 371.Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
Southbound traffic on Highway 371 - sometimes backed up 30 vehicles while officers allowed cross traffic to move - was detoured west onto Clearwater Road, south on Forest Drive, and east on Excelsior Road. On Forest Drive, southbound traffic crawled bumper to bumper between Clearwater and Excelsior roads.
Officers also directed traffic at the intersection of Golf Course and Excelsior roads to curtail backups during the night rush hour.
The cut gas line affected more than just shoppers and travelers. One woman who pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot said she was unable to get to her job at Super 8 Motel next to the parking lot on Edgewood Drive.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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