Fashion Valley mall open for business despite lack of gas

SAN DIEGO – All freeways reopened and the Fashion Valley mall was open for business as usual on Thursday morning, a day after a huge gas leak closed a Mission Valley freeway and forced thousands to evacuate homes and businesses.

FOX 5 crews saw dozens of employees showing up to businesses at the mall, including restaurants like Dennys and True Food Kitchen. They said they were expecting to work even though 79 businesses and about 900 residences in the area had no natural gas service because of the broken gas line.

Fashion Valley officials told FOX 5 that the mall was scheduled to open for business as usual at 10 a.m.

A construction crew working on an expansion of the Friars Road overpass at Route 163 cut through a 20-inch natural gas transmission line near the corner of Friars Road and Ulric Street around 10:30 a.m., setting off a series of events that caused traffic jams on freeways and surface streets from Mission Valley to Kearny Mesa.

The mishap sent gas billowing into the air and forced more than 3,000 people to leave their homes and closed state Route 163 between Interstates 8 and 805, causing traffic to spill onto other local freeways and surface streets and paralyzing much of San Diego.

About a half-hour later, San Diego police started closing Friars Road between the Fashion Valley Mall and Frazee Road, and the California Highway Patrol shut down the freeway soon after.

By about 2:45 p.m., close to 3,300 people from 1,100 homes had been told to evacuate, Phillipp said. The entire Fashion Valley Mall was also evacuated, as well as numerous other nearby stores and offices.

The flow of gas wasn't stopped until 6:15 p.m., according to Colleen Windsor of San Diego Gas and Electric.

Some residents, including those in the nearby Avalon Fashion Valley apartment complex, didn't expect to have fully restored gas service until 3:30 or 4 p.m. on Thursday.

In the meantime SDG&E told FOX 5 that many nearby businesses are running on back-up tanks.