Gas Leak Closes Route 163, Thousands Evacuated in Mission Valley

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San Diego Gas & Electric crews at the scene of the gas leak. Courtesy SDG&E

A major natural gas line leak was plugged Wednesday evening, and state Route 163 reopened, following the evacuation of 3,300 people and numerous workers from the heart of Mission Valley.

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No one was hurt, but the hours-long freeway closure disrupted traffic throughout the central San Diego area. Temporary evacuation points were established at Riverwalk Golf Course and Fenton Marketplace.

The freeway was reopened and the evacuation orders lifted just before 8 p.m.

Construction crews cut through a 20-inch-diameter gas line in Mission Valley at about 10:30 a.m., as they worked on widening the Friars Road overpass at Route 163. The cut was near the corner of Friars Road and Ulric Street.

The mishap sent gas billowing into the air, television news footage showed. Route 163 was closed between Interstates 8 and 805, causing traffic to spill onto other local freeways and surface streets and paralyzing much of San Diego.

About a half-hour later, San Diego police started closing Friars Road between the Fashion Valley Mall and Frazee Road, and the California Highway Patrol shut down the freeway soon after.

By about 2:45 p.m., close to 3,300 people from 1,100 homes had been told to evacuate, said Alec Philipp of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. The entire Fashion Valley Mall was also evacuated, as well as numerous other nearby stores and offices.

Map from San Diego County emergency services office shows the current evacuation area.

The flow of gas wasn’t stopped until 6:15 p.m., according to Colleen Windsor of San Diego Gas and Electric.

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“Our crews will now be assessing the damage to the pipe,” Windsor said.

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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