Buzzards were circling downtown, Sept. 1, 2005

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

I suppose it was my training as a reporter from which I developed a keen nose for news, but when I pulled into the office this morning and saw the entire staff of the News-Herald sitting on the curb in the parking lot, I knew sensed something was not right.

"Gas leak," circulation manager Shirley Forehand said when I inquired. "They won't let us in the building.

I noticed a Suffolk Police officer standing in Saratoga Street in front of our building so I pulled around back and went in to get my camera.

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Crowds gathered at various points around downtown as police and fire personnel blocked West Washington between Main and Saratoga and most of Saratoga. Fortunately, they were well-behaved and there was little if any looting going on as in New Orleans. An officer told me he believed a worker in the A.J. Gators building on W. Washington had broken a 3-inch gas line.

The smell of gas filled the entire downtown area. After about an hour, a friend I was with noticed about two-dozen buzzards circling the downtown area. Does the smell of gas attract buzzards? I'd be interested in knowing if anyone can help with that.

It was after 9 a.m. when I saw the first Virginia Natural Gas truck pull up and start addressing the situation. A Suffolk firefighter was expressing some disgust with their response time a half hour before he arrived.

I talked to Steve Gellas of Pisces who was standing there watching the action and he made a similar comment. He's from New Jersey where he and his father were in the restaurant

business. He said such situations were frequent there and the gas company was always there in minutes.

It appeared the danger had passed shortly before 9:30, when we and everyone else downtown were allowed to enter our buildings.