A 1,000-gallon propane gas tank at the Mount Airy Carnival Grounds apparently was punctured by a bullet early yesterday, prompting the evacuation of about 20 carnival workers and the closing of Route 27 for about 3 1/2 hours.
State police said the shot possibly was fired by someone in a passing automobile or in woods near the carnival grounds, at Route 27 and Twin Arch Road.
The tank rupture was reported at 3:58 a.m. to the Carroll County Emergency Operations Center. But it was unclear who called, officials said.
Late yesterday, state police were investigating the gunshot. The bullet hole was found at the south end of the tank.
State police closed Route 27 for three hours and 27 minutes as a precaution. Traffic was rerouted around the area by state police and Fire Police.
The carnival workers were awakened and evacuated from their trailers when emergency crews arrived, but were allowed to return when the road was reopened.
Bob Thomas, chief deputy state fire marshal, said there was only a remote chance the gunshot could have caused the tank to explode. The tank is situated about 100 feet east of Route 27, parallel to the highway. Police did not close Twin Arch Road, which lies between the carnival grounds and the Twin Arch Shopping Center.
State police Cpl. Palmer Grotte said the propane was to be used for cooking during the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company's annual fund-raising carnival, which began yesterday.
Fire officials said about 500 gallons of propane escaped from the tank before hazardous materials crews were able to plug the bullet hole.
Firefighters from the Mount Airy fire company, the Lisbon station in Howard County, the Damascus station in Montgomery County and two hazardous materials units from Fort Detrick in Frederick County were dispatched to the scene.