Gas Leak Forces Evacuations in Contra Costa County Town of Alamo

Evacuation orders lifted at 3:15 p.m. Road still closed

By Jean Elle, Cheryl Hurd and Staff
|  Thursday, Jul 25, 2013  |  Updated 7:08 AM PDT
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An emergency alert telling people to evacuate caused confusion among Contra Costa County residents. Jean Elle reports.

An emergency alert telling people to evacuate caused confusion among Contra Costa County residents. Jean Elle reports.

Photos and Videos

Gas Leak Dispurts Life in Alamo

Cheryl Hurd reports on a gas leak that lead to lots of evacuations Wednesday in the East Bay city of Alamo.

RAW VIDEO: Alamo Gas Leak Leads to Evacuation

Parts of Alamo are being evacuated because of a gas leak near Danville Boulevard, according to the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.
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Evacuate now.

That's what a text alert sent to people in Contra Costa County read Wednesday morning.

Eric Ahmadi said he didn't know what was wrong, but he took the warning seriously. Ahmadi called his family and warned co-workers at a Danville cafe.

"I informed my coworkers and we swiftly evacuated everyone off the premises," he said. "That's when we evacuated the store."

Ahmadi and his coworker, Marcus Burks, started driving south while looking up what might be going on.

"I had no idea until we googled it and it said that it was a gas leak on Danville Boulevard in Alamo," Burks said.

The gas leak was about three miles away from their cafe.

Emergency responders did evacuate people in a three-square block area around the leak. But a county-wide evacuation was never in effect.

Contra Costa County Supervisor Candace Andersen said the alert Ahmadi received in Danville was a mistake, likely created from a computer upgrade that sent the emergency message to a larger, further area.

Ahmadi said the alert was vague and alarming.

"The text message didn't inform us at all," he said. "Just said severe emergency get out of county."

Andersen said she will be following up on the glitch and will make sure the issue is fixed.

Wednesday's gas leak started after an East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) truck hit the gas pipe. However, an EBMUD spokesperson told NBC Bay Area the blame goes to PG&E because the line was not properly marked.

A backhoe struck a 1.5-inch line at 10:35 a.m. PG&E crews were able to stop the leak around 3:30 p.m., utility spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian told Bay City News. It took crews several hours of digging and jackhammering to be able to make the needed repairs, Sarkissian said.

The evacuation order was put in place immediately after the break. It was lifted at 3:30 p.m., according to the Contra Costa County sheriff's department.

"Residents and citizens can resume their normal activities," the sheriff's statement read.

Earlier in the day it was the opposite. Officials told residents on Alamo Square Drive to "leave immediately."

Initially, everyone near Alamo Square Drive was ordered to go as far south on that street as possible. The Alamo Plaza Shopping Center was also evacuated along with nearby businesses.  In all, some 900 people received the evacuation message through a reverse 911 phone call or a knock on their door.

At its height, the evacuation area expanded to a 3-square block area from the intersection of Danville Blvd & Stone Valley Road.

Residents were told to turn off all heat sources in their homes, lock all doors and windows, and take with them only essential items that can be carried. If they had pets, they were told they must be in a carrier or a leash.

Motorists were also advised to avoid the area, which is near the Alamo Plaza Shopping Center.

The northbound and southbound I-680 off ramps at Stonevalley Road in Danville were also closed.

Danville Boulevard, between Stone Valley Road and Las Trampas Road, was to remain closed (north and south bound) while repairs are made late Wednesday afternoon.

Check Contra Costa County Office of Emergency Services Website for Bulletins

The Danville Police Department and the Town of Danville’s Maintenance Department are assisting the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, but Danville residents are not affected, according to town officials.

Due to heavy traffic in Alamo on and near Danville Boulevard, residents were advised to use Interstate 680 and other thoroughfares.

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