This report has been updated with a response from PG&E.
Residents of approximately 325 dwellings in a neighborhood just west of downtown San Jose began returning to their homes late Thursday and early Friday after their evacuation Wednesday afternoon caused by a ruptured gas line.
The 8-inch gas line was expected to be repaired today, said PG&E spokeswoman Mayra Tostado. She said natural gas service for 35 natural gas customers was being gradually restored, one at a time, today, with PG&E assistance.
Once PG&E was able to stop the flow of gas and make the area safe at approximately 10:30pm Thursday, the utility said it began working with San Jose police and fire officials to allow evacuated customers to return to their homes.
In a statement released today, PG&E said, ”We apologize for the inconvenience caused by this incident and thank first responders for their ongoing support.”
“We appreciate the patience of those affected by this incident, which provides an unfortunate example of what can happen when safe-digging protocols are not followed,” the utility said in its statement.
As of mid-day today, approximately 65 gas service customers with a business or residence on Park Avenue were being asked to come to the PG&E mobile customer support van parked at 238 Race Street, so that utility representatives can escort them to their home or business and do a safety sweep of the location.
Tostado cautioned that residents in the neighborhood should not attempt to turn on the gas or relight the pilot lights, which can be done by PG&E. For gas safety tips, visit www.pge.com/gassafety.
The two-day incident began at approximately 9:54am Wednesday, Tostado said, when PG&E was notified that a third-party contractor, not working for PG&E, struck an 8-inch steel gas line with mechanical equipment near the intersection of Race Street and Park Avenue in San Jose, causing gas to leak.
With PG&E crews working around the clock, the flow of gas was stopped at 6:05pm Thursday, she said.
“While our investigation is ongoing, it appears that the third-party contractor, not affiliated with PG&E, struck the gas line with mechanical equipment in an area that had utility lines properly marked for the construction work,” she said in a statement.
“The contractor was supposed to be hand-digging within two feet on either side of the gas line that was struck. Using mechanical equipment in a marked area is prohibited due to the high risk of hitting underground utility lines and causing an unsafe situation,” she wrote.
An estimated 50 PG&E employees in multiple crews worked on the emergency repair project.
Prior to today’s email in response to questions by San Jose Inside, the last announcements by PG&E and the San Jose Fire Department were on Twitter at 10:30pm Thursday.
Neither the utility or the city would name the contractor that allegedly broke the gas line with an excavating machine, in violation of federal and state utility regulations.
Twitter was buzzing with comments from residents and relatives and friends of residents Thursday evening, about erratic and vague information from PG&E and fire officials about the evacuation as it entered its second day.
The area is bordered by W. San Carlos Street on the south, Meridian and Mariposa avenues on the west, W. San Fernando Street on the north and by Rainier Street and Lincoln Avenue on the east.