Gas leak shuts down South Side streets, causes evacuations

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Crews responded to a gas main break in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Monday morning.

Chicago Fire Department called in the Hazardous Incident Team after a water department construction crew hits a 4" gas main.

Police blocked streets in the area of West 47th and South Hermitage around 9:30 a.m. after a four-inch main broke. The leak was secured around 10:45 a.m., police said. Evacuations ended around 11:15 a.m., and all residents, workers and students were allowed back into the area.

Those downwind tells us the odor was overpowering.

"I saw all that gas, you know you could smell it. Standing over there, I was getting a headache, so we had to move down," said Mike Rico.

Hundreds nearby were evacuated as a precaution including students at Seward Elementary School and people working in businesses along busy Back of the Yards corridor of 47th street.

"It's scary because you don't know what's going on," said Monica Reynoso.

It took over an hour to stop the gas leak but fortunately there were no fires and no one was hurt.

"We monitored the area continuously and found there was no danger to anybody, everything was precautionary," said CFD Deputy District Chief Jack Nagle.

The gas leak and evacuation happened as the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council is planning Fiesta Back of the Yards this weekend.

"When I pulled up and saw the special hazmat fire truck pull up, I knew we had a bit of a problem. Yeah, we were worried, we're still worried, but after speaking with the construction project manager, he says we're going to be back on pace," said Craig Chico of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council.

The Fiesta is scheduled to run along 47th from Ashland to Damen. The Water Department project to replace water mains under 47th street already had part of the street closed.

Fiesta Organizers hope the gas line repair doesn't detour Fiesta plans.

"Hopefully by the weekend all this will be gone. You won't even recognize it and we'll have the entire 47th street corridor back," said Chico.
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