San Francisco water main break forces evacuations

Water, fire and PG&E crews are all on the scene of a water main break in San Francisco that led to dozens of evacuations early Wednesday morning.

Residents are now back after spending the morning evacuated from their homes; all because of that water main break and gas leak.

For most of the neighbors near Castro and Duboce Streets, the first sign of a problem was the smell of gas shortly before 5 a.m. 

Mark F says his wife woke up to the smell filling their home. 

"We checked the stove, and it looked like everything was ok," said Mark F. "The water heater seemed ok. So, I said I'm not sure what that is. It was just very faint, and she woke up an hour later coughing really bad and actually threw up from coughing so hard."

He says he learned that the gas leak may have had something to do with the water cascading down the street. 

"Sounded like it was raining outside, because of all the water rushing, and so I went out, and I could see the water pumping out of the ground, and so then I walked outside and took a quick video myself, and I could smell the gas," said Mark F. "It was just, like, a very powerful smell of gas."

Lenore Chinn said she was awakened by a neighbor knocking on her door; she said she had to scramble to find her cats and get a relative to drive her and the cats to safety. 

"I managed to get the cats, and then I thought, 'well now what,'" said Chinn. "Then they said, 'You can't drive your car either,' 'cause I have a garage up there, and they didn't want us to turn on the ignition."


Gas leak, water main break in San Francisco

San Francisco firefighters raced on Wednesday morning to a gas leak and 16-inch water main break.

San Francisco firefighters say it all appears to have started with that water main break; sometime before 5 am, either a 12 or 16-inch water main failed and took out a plastic 4-inch underground gas pipeline.

Neighbors were evacuated one block in each direction of Castro and Duboce streets as crews responded. 

"We have 12-inch and 16-inch water mains in this area," said San Francisco Fire Department Capt. Jonathan Baxter. 

"We know that we have at least one of those broken, they're addressing it. We may have an additional break. That is something that PUC is working on confirming." 

Fire officials say the gas leak was resolved a few hours, but PG&E had to open holes in the asphalt to vent gas that had built up in the sandy soil beneath the roadway. 

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"We have completed the venting of the vault where the gas line was located," said Jason King from PG&E. "Currently the city is excavating because they have to complete repairs on the water main."

All of this is unfolding right next door to the CPMC Davies Hospital campus. A hospital spokesperson confirms that the hospital briefly activated its disaster plan, delaying or postponing some procedures, but that the hospital is now fully reopened and operational, including the emergency department. 

Anyone with an appointment should contact responders on scene for guidance on how to make those appointments.

Crews here say they expect to be working to resolve the water main break into the evening, and some customers in the area will have to have water and gas service restored.

PG&E customers who lost their gas need to call the utility company to have their pilot lights relit.