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Natural gas leak in U-district prompts evacuation

Excavator digging hit 2-inch gas line

SEATTLE – On Oct. 14 just before 2 p.m., firefighters responded to the U-district at NE 45th St. and Brooklyn Ave. NE for a natural gas leak. Private contractors working on a telecommunications project were digging with an excavator, when a 2-inch gas line was punctured.

Firefighters immediately notified Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and begun evacuating people in the impacted area: NE 43rd St. to NE 47th St. and 12th Ave. NE to University Way NE. Wind played a factor in determining the evacuation zone, along with levels of natural gas found from monitoring buildings in the immediate area. The evacuation zone included two high-rise buildings, several businesses and other occupancies. An AlertSeattle message was sent to a half-mile radius from the incident location to notify community members of the situation.

When PSE arrived on scene, they put a plan in place to secure the leak. They began digging holes at three locations in close proximity to the leak, to access the gas lines and place a clamp on them. Seattle Police Department officers controlled traffic in the area and kept people out of harm’s way. King County Metro turned off power to the overhead lines that help operate bus lines to ensure a spark would not occur, resulting in a possible fire igniting.

Just after 5 p.m., PSE had the leak secured. People were allowed back in the buildings once firefighters and PSE deemed them safe, and the area became open to foot traffic. The incident was turned over to the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Department of Transportation, who stayed on scene to mitigate impacts to traffic and the roads.