Students back in class after gas leak forces evacuation


Students and staff moved to the gym after being evacuated this morning due to a natural gas leak in the science wing.

By Hawkeye Staff

Students and staff moved to the gym after being evacuated this morning due to a natural gas leak in the science wing. Devyn Cox | HAWKEYE

UPDATE 6:38 p.m.: Six students reported to the MTHS nurse’s office due to severe headaches from the natural gas leak earlier today, according to a district spokesperson. Two students were eventually sent home. When students were brought to nurse Julie Hill’s office she immediately contacted the Poison Control Center who directed her to have the students get some fresh air.

Natural gas is odorless and colorless so a substance called tert-butyl mercaptan is often added to help people detect leaks. According to the Puget Sound Energy website, it smells like rotten eggs. However, tert-butyl mercaptan can cause headaches and more serious conditions if overexposure occurs.

“I was impressed by how well behaved and mature the students were for that stretch of time [referring to the nearly two hours that students and staff were evacuated]. I felt that the immediate responses by the staff to our officials was the right response,” district spokesperson DJ Jakala said.

UPDATE 12:15 p.m.: Science teachers in the building reported smelling gas during first period; administrators also detected gas when looking into the report. Scott Morrison, assistant principal, then pulled the fire alarm to evacuate the building.

Within minutes of evaluating the building the fire department was on the scene. “The school did a good job of evacuating…and we’re thankful for that,” Doug Dahal, battalion chief for Snohomish County Fire Department No. 1 (SCFD No. 1) said.

When the fire alarm was pulled the system automatically closed the doors for each main hallway in the school. This contained the gas, not allowing it to spread throughout the school.

The gas line was shut off and the building was ventilated to clear out the gas. Students were moved from the upper and lower fields on the MTHS campus, into the gym while the science wing of the building was treated for the leak.

As students and staff are relocated to the gym, fire marshals and Terrace staff stand in the foyer outside the Terraceum discussing the next move. Devyn Cox | HAWKEYE

“I think this [gas leak] is unprecedented. We’re actually seeing how we handle this sort of thing,” TJ Sullivan said. Sullivan has been teaching vocal music at MTHS for several years and this is the first gas leak he has experienced while employed at the school.

MTHS prepares for fires and earthquake evacuations, but rarely has the school specifically prepared for a gas leak evacuation. “Students and staff were amazing during the drill. The students were calm, orderly and patient. And the staff did an excellent job responding and attending to their responsibilities,” Principal Greg Schwab said.

Just in time for third period, students were cleared to leave the gym and return to class. With no detection of the odor that caused the halt to a school day, students were asked to grab their things and proceed to their third period and continue with their day.

UPDATE 10:27 a.m.: Students are safely back in class and will remain on normal schedule for the remainder of the school day.

UPDATE 9:56 a.m.: Students are now being dismissed by grade to collect belongings and head to 3rd period.

UPDATE 9:43 a.m.: Athletic/Activities Coordinator Kim Stewart begins to call of the names of students whose parents have requested that they be dismissed and picked up from school.

UPDATE 9:03 a.m.: Students and staff have been relocated to the gym and are awaiting further instructions from fire department officials and school administrators. Photos are being uploaded as this is typed.

MTHS students, faculty and support staff have all been evacuated from the school due to a gas leak in an unconfirmed location of the science wing. After fire alarms sounded just after 8 a.m., students and staff were evacuated to the fields on the campus.

To pass the time, MTHS students begin to play guitar, chat among friends, and play the growing popular game "NINJA." Devyn Cox | HAWKEYE

Stay with the HAWKEYE for up-to-the-minute information on this story. Updates and a full complete story are on the way!