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Johnston Hall reopened after gas leak causes evacuation

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Students and faculty evacuated Johnston Hall Wednesday afternoon for more than an hour due to a gas leak likely caused by a gas line between Johnston and the neighboring, under-construction Sensenbrenner Hall.

The evacuation began shortly after 12 p.m., and many students and faculty members relocated to the Law Library, Straz and Cudahay Halls. The Department of Public Safety, Milwaukee Fire Department and Police Department sealed off the area around Johnston Hall until it was reopened around 1:30 p.m.

“(The construction workers) were working on some steam pipe between the college of comm and (Sensenbrenner Hall), and they’re not sure exactly what happened,” said Carole Burns, director of the Wakerly Technology Training Center shortly after evacuation. “But all of a sudden it started being a pretty heavy smell of natural gas in the building, so we called public safety, and they suggested that we evacuated until further notice. That’s all we got.”

While a DPS officer on the scene said no additional details could be given at this time, technical service manager Keith Rocheck confirmed the likelihood gas entered Johnston through the gas line between the two buildings. DPS also said the timetable for reentry was unknown at the time of the evacuation.

The Wehr Chemistry building was also evacuated in March for a chemical leak, but began activity again just two hours later.

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