High winds kept crews for a unit of Chesapeake Energy Corp. from bringing under control a runaway natural gas well that has been spewing gas and drilling mud since Tuesday near the town of Douglas, WY, in part of the Niobrara Shale formation in Converse County.

A Chesapeake spokesperson at the scene said the operator is doing everything possible to contain the incident and protect health and safety. Air sampling results from surrounding areas continue to register as normal. If evacuated residents choose, they may remain in area hotels at the company’s expense, said Chesapeake’s Kelsey Campbell.

Earlier, Wyoming Oil and Gas Supervisor Tom Doll said state field inspectors reported in the early afternoon Thursday that weather conditions remained unfavorable for the Chesapeake crews to begin plugging the well. Both wind speed and direction worked against beginning the effort.

Since the incident occurred during a procedure to install steel well casing on Tuesday, the cause was still under investigation Thursday. The producer has prepared resources and equipment to get it under control, but still hasn’t begun the effort. No injuries were reported.

Initially, 67 residents within a 2.5-mile radius of the well reportedly were evacuated voluntarily, while another 17 chose to stay in their homes. It was unclear Thursday how many people are still away from their homes.

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