Hundreds of residents begin to be cleared to return home after San Jose gas leak

Hundreds of San Jose residents remained out of their homes Thursday after a temporary evacuation was ordered due to a natural gas leak that lasted more than 24 hours.

By late Thursday night, all residents were cleared to return home, except for those located on Park Avenue between Meridian and Lincoln avenues. Those residents were told to report to a PG&E customer support unit sprinter van located at a laundromat at 1098 Park. Ave. before they can return home. 

The leak impacted homes and businesses in the 100 block of Race Street at the intersection of Park Avenue in the city's Midtown neighborhood.

For some residents, Thursday felt like a moving day. Many made a slow trek to and from their homes to care for pets left behind after a mandatory evacuation.

"Our poor cats are stuck at home with no food. So we’re trying to see if we can get in to deliver food to them," said evacuee Roselee Graham.

Workers for a third-party contractor, Lightwave Construction, issued a mea culpa Thursday morning for causing the disruption.

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"If there’s gonna be any streets dug up they always come out and mark where everything is. So I don’t understand why you could do this much damage," one resident said.

PG&E said Lightwave workers used a boring machine in an area designated for hand tools, severing an 8-inch underground natural gas line.

"That line is connected to other lines that need to be isolated so that we can fully stop the flow of gas," said PG&E spokeswoman Mayra Tostado.

Most of the splinter lines were capped by mid-afternoon on Thursday.

"Natural gas has a flammability range when it mixes with oxygen. So what we’ve done is we’ve created this large perimeter. Where we know, outside of that perimeter, we have zero natural gas," said Capt. Brad Cloutier of the San Jose Fire Department.

Most residents were annoyed by the accident. But many said, all things considered, a short-term inconvenience is better than a possible, uglier alternative.

"I don’t really have anything to whine about. I’m inconvenienced for 24 hours. But overall my life’s pretty sweet," said one woman. Added Graham, "We’re just hoping for the best at this point. But thankful our neighborhood didn’t blow up. So that’s a plus."

PG&E officials said the last of the six splinter lines, which led to the temporary evacuation affecting over 300 addresses, was capped Thursday evening. The utility said Lightwave Construction could be held liable for damages depending on what the gas line rupture investigation finds. 

Fire officials said the evacuation order is expected to last through the night.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated information about the accident. Lightwave workers had used the boring machine, according to PG&E, not PG&E workers.