Shortly before 2 p.m. July 24, a third party contractor was excavating sand from Marina Park and transporting it across Balboa Boulevard to the beach near 20th Street. Workers were using heavy equipment and a natural gas line near 1900 W. Oceanfront ruptured.
Residents were temporarily evacuated Thursday, July 24, the leak was fixed Friday, July 25, and service was restored by the afternoon of Sunday, July 26.
“It knocked out the gas for most of the peninsula,” said local Woody Walchak.
Most people between Newport and Balboa piers were affected, he observed.
“(It went) clear down the peninsula,” he said. “It was quite an outage.”
It was an inconvenience, but not that bad overall, he noted. The Southern California Gas Company and the city were pretty quick about getting information out and working on the problem, he said.
Newport Beach city officials sent out an alert to residents warning them and advising people to avoid the area by 2:18 p.m. July 24.
A follow-up message at 6 p.m. notified locals that gas for thousands of homes and businesses would be stopped until the pipe was repaired and SoCal Gas restored service, which could take several days.
“For safety purposes, all homes from the 1900 block of Oceanfront to the Newport Pier were evacuated when the line break occurred,” the city message explains.
The city provided evacuees with shelter, restrooms and water at the old city hall. Residents were allowed to return to their homes later in the evening.
The Gas Company shut down the line early July 25 and completed a permanent repair later that night, said Southern California Gas Company spokesman Javier Mendoza.
“SoCalGas worked through the night to stop the leak and repair the pipeline,” the city announcement notes.
All homes and businesses from 23rd Street to the Wedge (Peninsula Point) were without gas service, according to the city.
Most businesses were forced to close down for the day, Walchak said.
A few businesses, like Baja Sharkeez, adjusted to the problem and were able to stay open.
“We worked around it,” said Sharkeez employee Danielle Reyes.
It definitely impacted business though, she added. Customers were unable to order several food items, she said.
Authorities warned residents that it could take several days to restore service.
The Gas Company sent representatives to the Peninsula to help customers restore gas service to their homes and businesses.
There was a lot of extra traffic, Walchak noted. On top of the usual summer visitor traffic, there were SoCal Gas Company workers all over, he added.
“It was quite an army of technicians,” Walchak said.
At one point, he counted 16 gas trucks parked on the peninsula, he said.
The restoration process is safety-focused thorough process and takes time, Mendoza noted.
“The restoration process includes crews going door-to-door to restore service and to complete a safety check of all natural gas appliances or equipment,” the city message explains.
Crews need to shut off each meter before gas can be re-introduced into the pipeline; Each meter has to then be turned back on; and SoCalGas crews re-light pilot lights and perform a safety check of all natural gas appliances or equipment at each residence and business.
“This is done at every home and business for the safety of our customers, community and employees,” Mendoza said.
Walchak’s service was restored by Saturday morning, roughly 30 hours later, he said.
Although they were without gas for an entire day and overnight, Walchak said they weren’t really affected.
“We got through it fine,” he added. “We didn’t fare so bad.”
Visitors renting beach homes for the weekend may have been affected a bit more, Walchak guessed.
The restoration process was completed by 1:30 p.m., except for a limited number of locations where the customers were not home, Mendoza said.
“These customers should are asked to please call SoCalGas,” he urged.
“SoCalGas must have access to customers’ homes and businesses to complete the restoration process,” he explained. “SoCalGas crews make multiple attempts to access a location and if customers are not at present when SoCalGas comes by, our crews then leave a door hanger with a contact number so customers can call us to return and complete the service restoration.”
Mendoza thanked SoCal Gas customers, the city of Newport Beach and the Balboa Peninsula community for their patience.
Residents and business owners are asked to call 811 before digging in the yard or at construction sites to have utility owned lines marked for free. Calling 811 or Underground Service Alert will help avoid possible injury or damage to hidden gas lines or service interruption while digging, Mendoza noted.
For more information, visit socalgas.com or call 1-800-427-2200.