A Eureka city block was evacuated and Hwy. 101 traffic diverted for nearly two hours this morning after a semi truck backed onto the sidewalk, breaking through a PG&E natural gas vault and severing a pipe. The recessed access vault was located in the sidewalk outside the county's Republican Central Committee headquarters at 311 Fifth St.
Eureka Fire Department Capt. Chris Jelinek said the call came in around 8:10 this morning, possibly from the truck driver who caused the leak. The smell of butyl mercaptan -- the odorant added to natural gas to detect leaks -- filled the area as fumes poured from the severed 1.5-inch pipe.
The block between Fourth and Fifth and D and E streets was evacuated along with the south side of Fifth St., including Starbucks. The Eureka Fire Department diverted northbound traffic to Seventh St. and closed sections of D and E streets while PG&E workers dug into the asphalt to reach the surrounding pipes.
By 9:45 the leak had been contained and one lane of northbound Hwy. 101 was opened. Capt. Jelinek said the area is now safe and PG&E should complete the repair work within an hour or two.