Thousands of customers in Riverside were still without natural gas Friday evening after a construction crew accidentally cut into a 6-inch gas main, prompting a leak that forced a stretch of the 215 Freeway to close.
Crews with the Southern California Gas Company went to every home and business in the area shutting off gas meters, a painstaking process that has to be done before gas can be restored to each customer.
The gas main was clipped near the 215 Freeway and Center Street about 1 a.m., according to the Riverside County Fire Department. Southbound lanes of the freeway were closed while work crews dealt with the leak.
Some 4,000 households are affected, officials said.
Crews said they could have the pipe fixed by 7 or 8 p.m. Friday, but by 11 p.m., they were still working to correct the leak. But customers' natural gas may not be restored for at least 24 hours.
"Safety is our number one priority and and this is a very significant outage," said Lea Peterson, with Southern California Gas Company.
The outage left thousands of customers without hot water or the ability to cook a meal. The leak was apparent to many residents.
"I went outside and it wreaked of gas," Dora Reaza said. "It gave me a headache right away."
A gas company spokeswoman said natura gas is not harmful to residents' health.
Residents near the main break were told to shelter in place at least until 6 a.m. or until the Southern California Gas Company shut off the gas line, according to a department incident report.
Officials are telling customers not to reset their pilot lights by themselves, but rather let a gas company worker do it for them.
A command post was set up near the gas main break, where customers could come and ask questions about the outage.
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