The smell and sound of natural gas rushing from one of the city’s largest mains prompted the evacuation of residents in the city’s northeast corner Friday morning, but those left behind have been stuck in the dark, without power, searching for information.
The situation started around noon Thursday when a private contractor attempting to install fiber optic lines on Stanford Street near Washington Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard struck a 16” gas main, which prompted a large response of state and local officials, some of whom said they have been working since 3 p.m. Thursday.
The ruptured gas line supplies a large amount of power to Santa Monica so solving the problem is not an easy task, according to officials on-scene. The Santa Monica Police Department initially tweeted Thursday that the problem would be resolved by Southern California Gas Company crews by the night’s end. But residents like Karen Paris were out walking the street early Friday afternoon trying to talk to anybody who would share a bit of information.
As she avoided the 3-feet deep, square holes that checkered the street, Paris said she heard power could be out for as long as a week before she found an on-site command center Friday.
“They are going to be working around the clock, because there are multiple gas lines that feed into this one line, so they have to shut off every single one of them before they can repair that line,” Paris said, “And because that transformer is there (right above it), they’re afraid that if there’s a spark of any kind that the whole thing will blow.”
No injuries have been reported yet but some residents have been asked to evacuate the area, including Carrie Sedor’s neighbors, who live feet away from the exposed line and transformer box.
Her neighbors are safe but Sedor intends to stay at home in “ground zero,” she said jokingly Friday when she shared her experiences throughout the last week.
Having lived at her Stanford street home for some time, Sedor said she never expected the power lines to be a problem until a private contractor hit the gas line that is located just outside of her driveway.
“They hit the big one right here that apparently feeds all of Santa Monica, this guy said. And they don’t want to shut down all of Santa Monica, so that’s why they’re doing it in increments,” Sedor said, detailing how she has seen hundreds of workers out at the scene in the last few days. “They said I’m right next to the transformer that possibly could spark the gas line and, apparently, gas is under the street and could buckle the road or something.”
While she stood from her porch, she noted how residents can easily see streams of gas shooting from the various excavation sites into the sky. Workers discouraged onlookers from taking pictures with their phones out of caution a spark could start a fire. Sedor said this is largely why vehicles have remained in driveways even as residents head to the nearby Hampton hotel for safety.
“I mean the whole front of my house right there is one huge dirt mound that they’re digging to access the 16’ pipe,” she said, taking a side-to-side gaze to count the square holes that litter the front of every house.
Sedor added she isn’t bothered by the work, but she has welcomed the fire department and many other state and local officials into her home.
“We’ve had everybody here, so it’s a big deal. This is a huge deal,” she said, before she stopped to help Emily de Leeuw, who has had no way to charge her phone or communicate with some of the neighborhood’s 95-year-old seniors.
While she walked house to house collecting phone numbers and sharing where residents can head if they wanted to evacuate, Leeuw said she had a few conversations with the Crown Castle contractor who said crews were struggling to shut off one of the breached pipes.
“They tried 16 or 17 different places… I learned this from the contractor who is with Crown Castle. And the haz-mat guy said, ‘If you’re able to find a place to evacuate to, it’s a good idea to evacuate because the gas seeps under the ground.’ And our house, all night, was smelling of gas and our windows were closed and I was wondering why,” de Leeuw added. “It apparently comes in through the basement or through the ground, and the haz-mat guy even said that part of the road is buckled because of the gas pressure building up, which makes it seem like it’s a lot more dangerous than one would have initially thought.”
De Leeuw said she isn’t concerned for her safety just yet. She is merely focused on helping her fellow neighbors because they haven’t been given much information about the matter.
“A few of the senior citizens are anxious. We have a couple who is 95 and in their 80s, and they were concerned so they’re going to try to evacuate today,” said de Leeuw. “And they’re going to block off this street so we can’t get in or out apparently for a while; I’m not sure but I do know they can’t even start working on the problem until they have shut off the main and they are just starting to shut everything off.”
SoCalGas did not respond to comment Friday but officials in the neighborhood said power should return by Saturday or Sunday at the latest. Southern California Edison they would have power restored as soon as repairs were complete to the gas line.