TYLER (KYTX) - Crews are still cleaning up the mess caused by a gas line explosion in Harlem. Eight people were killed, dozens were hurt, and one person is still missing. But, just how often do gas line explosions happen? Energy specialists say gas line breaks aren't common.
Specialists say, there's not a clear number of how many explosions happen each year, but they are few and far in between.
They said when it comes to breaks, it's not natural gas causing the problem.
The biggest issue is us:the people. That's why specialists urge you to call before you dig.
As we get into spring, Howard Ferguson is looking forward to making his yard a lot more colorful.
"It's just relaxing to get out and dig in the dirt."
He plants a variety of flowers.
"Normally you don't dig deeper than six inches or eight."
He even plants the occasional tree, but he does it with caution.
"You don't' ever want to be digging and hear that gas come out of the hole," said City of Tyler engineer Carter Dellaney.
He says even city employees call Centerpoint before they dig.
Centerpoint keeps track of the location of underground lines ranging from gas, water, sewage and other utilities. When utility workers find them, the lines are marked with color coordinated flags.
"It's the best thing you can do to prevent outages and possible injuries," said Centerpoint spokesperson Alicia Dixon.
In 2004, energy companies around the country started the Call 811 campaign.
How does 811 work? if people are planning on digging, they just call 811. For free, workers will map out underground lines, to make sure it's safe for you to dig.
In the past ten years, since calling 811 was implemented, the number of people damaging lines has gone down by nearly 40 percent. Even though incidents have declined, Centerpoint says accidents do happen.
"It's best to get every one out of the house and call us from a remote location."
Centerpoint says even a slight smell of gas could mean something much worse. In addition to asking people to be cautious, Centerpoint and similar organizations often survey lines to check for breaks...so that's just one more way they try to stay ahead of a disaster.