Several dozen Belle Plaine residents were evacuated Wednesday evening when construction crews severed a gas main in an alley of the historic downtown.

Mayor Chris Meyer said the "high-level" leak began around 6 p.m. on the 100 block of South Meridian, the town's main commercial district. Neighboring residents were evacuated to Chatfield Elementary.

As of late Wednesday night, CenterPoint Energy had not capped the line.

"The duration [of the leak] was our main concern," Meyer said. "Our emergency operations center at the fire station is about four or five blocks from there and you could readily smell the gas."

Numerous businesses, including an insurance office and a bar, along the stretch were also forced to close early and turn off the power.

Belle Plaine is a town of 6,700 about 45 miles southwest of Minneapolis.