National City Residents Can Go Home After Gas-Leak Evacuation Order Lifted

Students were taken to Las Palmas Elementary School about two miles away

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An elementary school, businesses and about 75 homes were evacuated Tuesday after a gas line ruptured under a roadway sending natural gas billowing through a National City neighborhood, officials said.

Construction crews were working outside Ira Harbison Elementary School near the intersection of 8th Street and Olive Avenue when a 6-inch gas line was ruptured at about 10:30 a.m., NCFD Chief Frank Parra said.

Students and staff at the nearby school were soon evacuated, as were nearby residents. Shortly after 7:15 p.m. National City police sent out an alert that the mandatory order to leave had been lifted.

Some residents, however, were warned that gas service may still be out while crews worked to repair the line. Repairs were also ongoing and a stretch of 8th Street, from Harbison Avenue to E. Plaza Boulevard would be closed through late afternoon Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a cloud could be seen rising from a hole in the ground, with gas blowing dust into the air for hours. Construction equipment surrounded the hole, though it was not clear what type of work was being done.

"That is a significant amount of gas that is broken and blowing right now," Parra said in the morning. "San Diego Gas & Electric emergency crews are on scene evaluating the situation, looking at dispersement patterns."

About 120 students were evacuated from Ira Harbison Elementary School through the north side of the school's campus and onto Shell Avenue, where National City police were on hand to coordinate their reunification with family, Parra said.

Some parents and guardians picked up students outside the school, like Conchita Johnson who was driving by when she smelled gas. She called the school and officials told her they were going to release the students one by one.

Other students were being loaded onto school buses and taken to Las Palmas Elementary School, about two miles away, until their parents could arrive, the National City School District said.

A gas leak prompted evacuations in a National City neighborhood.

Parra said the school -- which has split students attending in-person learning into two groups due to COVID-19 precautions -- alerted parents that their afternoon session would be canceled.

By about noon, homes in the area were placed under a mandatory evacuation order, according to NCPD. About 75 homes were evacuated, as well as businesses from a nearby strip mall. A gym at the nearby Camacho Recreation Center was being utilized for displaced families, managed by the Red Cross and National City police.

It took several more hours before crews could get the gas line under control and allow residents to return home at about 7 p.m.

At the time of the leak, construction crews were working in the area but it is unclear exactly what happened to cause the gas line to break.

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