Gas Leak In Irvine Forces Evacuations

IRVINE (CBS) —  A construction crew ruptured an 8-inch natural gas line in Irvine Wednesday, causing a leak that prompted the evacuation of nearby Northwood High School and kept about 70 people out of their homes for hours.

Orange County Fire Authority personnel were dispatched about 11:35 a.m. to Portola Parkway and Yale Avenue, and students at the high school were ushered out of classrooms, OCFA Capt. Marc Stone said.

Authorities hope to close the leak by sometime this evening, said Emily Smith, a spokeswoman for the Southern California Gas Co.

Shortly after 2 p.m., authorities decided to start evacuating the Timberwood apartments and neighboring homes in the area, even though the wind was taking the gas away from the area, Stone said. About 70 people were evacuated, Stone said.

“Right now, the wind is still favorable to us, so it’s strictly precautionary,” Stone said about 2:30 p.m. in explaining why residents were being evacuated. “We wanted to do it just in case there’s a wind shift.”

An evacuation center was set up at Woodbury Park for residents, but only about seven people went there, Stone said.

Evacuated residents can call (949) 724-6833 to find out when they will be allowed back in their homes.

Portola Parkway was closed to traffic, and Canyon View Elementary was “locked down,” meaning students remained in the school, said Ian Hanigan of the Irvine Unified School District.

Parents of Northwood students were directed to the Orchard Hills shopping center to pick up their children, Hanigan said. Canyon View classes were finished for the day and students were picked up by their parents, Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen said.

There were no reports of injuries or illnesses, he said.

 (©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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