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      Gas leak leads to evacuations in Ashland

      Updated, 4:22 p.m.:

      A natural gas leak forced several evacuations and shut down most of Downtown Ashland on Wednesday morning.

      Street crews accidently broke a six-inch gas line while working near the Southern Boone County Middle School about 9:30 a.m.

      With the smell of gas spreading throughout a four block area, emergency crews evacuated Southern Boone County High School, Middle School and Preschool Kindergarten. Authorities blocked off nearby streets and closed more than a dozen businesses including the Ashland Post Office. Ameren crews shut off the leak about 90 minutes after the gas line broke. No one was hurt and nothing was damaged.

      Southern Boone County Fire Protection District Chief Roger Jaeger said, ??We have to be cautious in situations like this. We did have problems with people going through areas that we had blocked and with people inside the area driving out of it. Those just scare me to death because if the wind is just right anything can ignite that gas.??

      During the evacuations, school officials said everyone did the right thing.

      Southern Boone County School Superintendent Charlotte Miller said, ??We followed our evacuation procedures. We communicated with the fire department and emergency responders. Our administration and staff did exactly what they practiced to do. We evacuated very quickly. We had a very good response.??

      Lance Taggert owns a barber shop in Downtown Ashland. Taggert never thought he was in any danger.

      Taggert said, ??With our fire department and everything around here, they respond pretty quickly. They seem to do a good job of getting everything under control.??

      After Ameren crews repaired the broken natural gas line, they checked every customer??s house for any problems and relit pilot lights.

      Southern Boone County firefighters, Boone County Sheriff??s Deputies, Ashland Police and the Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to the Ashland natural gas leak.

      Updated, 1:55 p.m.: City crews hit an unmarked, abandoned gas service in the 100 block of North Main Street at about 9:30 a.m.An evacuation for a 400 foot radius, which included the downtown district and South Boone County Middle and High schools, was conducted.Ameren UEI, which owns and operates the gas main, shut off the gas supply.The evacuation was lifted at about 11:15 a.m. The gas main should be repaired by the end of the business day, and no injuries or property damage has been reported. Updated, 11:50 a.m.:The post office and middle school are now open. All roads are also open.Updated, 11:20 a.m.:The gas leak has been stopped. Route M between Henry Clays and Palis Nichols is open.Original:Boone County responders are working a large gas main break at Main Street & Redbud Lane in Ashland.Several homes & businesses have been evacuated, and middle school students were moved to the high school. The post office was also evacuated, so mail distribution may be impacted today.Southern Boone County Fire Protection District and University Hospital Ambulance Service are on the scene. The Highway Patrol has shut down Route M between Henry Clay Boulevard and Palis Nichols Road.Avoid the area if possible.