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Early-morning gas leak in Richmond prompts evacuation: 'It was frightening'

Posted at 4:53 PM, May 10, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- The investigation into what caused a predawn gas leak along a stretch of West Broad Street in Scott's Addition remained ongoing into Wednesday evening.

The leak prompted the brief closures of West Broad Street and lanes nearby Interstate 195.

It also resulted in the evacuation of an apartment building along the 3600 block of West Broad Street.

"It was frightening," Andrea Ferrero, who lives in the evacuated building, said.

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The evacuation order reached Ferrero at about 6 a.m.

"I had just barely woken up and the alarm started going off really loud. I texted my friends who live here and I was like, 'Is this real? Has this happened in the past?' Didn't really know what was going on," Ferrero said.

Crunch Fitness, which has a location in the same building, put its operation on pause because of the leak.

Ariana Bland, an employee there, said the smell of the leak lingered for hours.

"When you came in here, you could still smell the gas. We were really uncertain if we could even be in the building or not," Bland said.

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A contracted company with the city performed planned overnight work at a nearby gas main as part of a "preventative maintenance program," according to Richmond's Department of Public Utilities.

Crews were working Wednesday morning near the building, a spot several residents said had been under construction for weeks, blocking a driveway for residents to get to Broad Street.

However, DPU has not confirmed if that's what may have caused the leak.

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Throughout the morning, dozens of calls reporting potential gas leaks came in on Richmond's West End, near the Fan and Museum districts.

When asked about the 3600 block leak, and the potential of other leaks in the area, a spokesperson for DPU said it is still in "discovery mode" and will provide an update when it is complete.

Those in the building said they just wanted answers, wondering how long the leak lasted.

"We do open up really early here, so we had a staff member who was here since like 4 a.m., and they didn't get any information until about 6," Bland said. "So that was pretty scary to consider that it's been a few hours of just like, an active gas like, like right down the street."

"Definitely a little frightening," Ferrero said. "What could happen to all of our stuff, our apartment and everything? Definitely would like more information about it, just being in close proximity."

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