Rare Weather Event Responsible for Foul Odor Engulfing Entire City

Residents in Charlotte, North Carolina, reported smelling a foul odor similar to the smell of natural gas in the city Thursday morning. Locals described the stench as a “gas leak but times 10,” saying it induced “headaches and nausea,” The Sun reported. “This is maybe the worst smell I’ve ever smelled in downtown Charlotte,” a resident said, according to The Sun. According to local outlet WCNC-TV, the smell was reported in various parts of the city, including the Uptown and South End areas. In response to the order, several buildings in Uptown Charlotte were evacuated due to the risk of gas leakage. According to the news station, Wells Fargo told its employees they could work remotely for the remainder of Thursday. Authorities believe the smell is connected to a phenomenon known as inversion. “We are experiencing a high 911 call volume related to a natural gas order in the city,” the Charlotte Fire Department said in a Thursday post on Twitter. The local fire department said that the National Weather Service Greenville-Spartanburg confirmed that the odor was due to a weather inversion. The fire department said it was working with Piedmont Natural Gas to “investigate the source of the odor.” Local authorities urged residents not to flood 911 with reports of the order, saying, “There is no need to report this odor unless you have a medical emergency or you feel that this odor is coming from your home or building,” according to The Charlotte Observer. According to the National Weather Service, inversions occur when the air near the ground cools faster than the air aloft. This, according to WCNC-TV,  results in a layer of hot air above trapping the cold, heavier air below along with pollution, smoke, fog and smell. “The odor is exaggerated by a strong low-level temperature inversion,” WCNC Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich said. “It’s a warm layer of air just off the surface that traps things below it. It doesn’t allow the air o mix up, this causes our poor air quality days as well. It will mix out as the surface warms up today,” Panovich explained. In an 11:02 a.m. tweet, Piedmont Natural Gas reported that there “are no natural gas leaks on our system,” adding that the foul smell is due to the “destruction of mercaptan tanks by a local company.” Mercaptan is a common natural gas odorant. Natural gas on its own has no odor. However, for safety reasons, small amounts of mercaptan are added to it to assist in detection in case of leaks. Mercaptan gives the gas a foul odor. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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