Gas service restored to Fashion Valley mall

SAN DIEGO -- Gas service was fully restored to Fashion Valley mall Thursday afternoon, a day after a huge gas leak closed a Mission Valley freeway and forced thousands to evacuate homes and businesses.

The mall opened for business at 10 a.m. Thursday, despite many businesses not having natural gas service because of the broken gas line.

By evening, crews restored service to nearly half of the 900 residents who woke up without gas Thursday morning, according to a San Diego Gas and Electric spokesperson. Crews have not been able to enter the homes of the remaining 500 residents to inspect their appliances before turning on their service.

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.

SDG&E is on track to have the gas line repaired Thursday night.