Alamo gas leak alert went further than intended

July 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Officials say a technical issue led to an evacuation order being sent to all of Contra Costa County.

Officials say a technical issue led to an evacuation order being sent to all of Contra Costa County.

The text message people received read "Emergency Alert in this area until 7:45 PM GMT Evacuate Now, CA Contra C" and it was issued for the one-million-plus people who live in Contra Costa County. Instead, it should have been issued for the relatively tiny community of Alamo, which has a population of 14,750. The large-scale evacuation order came on Wednesday following a natural gas pipeline leak that's since been repaired.

PG&E crews were back art work in Alamo Thursday morning, half a block from the leak. Ricardo Baredes has returned to repairing shoes, just across the street from the leak, and barber Giovanni Barbera has gone back to cutting hair. It seems Wednesday just a blip of a memory.

"I closed up and go home," said Barbera.

Because when a work crew from East Bay MUD accidently ruptured a PG&E gas line, it was serious business, with evacuations and highway closures.

"I thought it was the best run thing I ever saw," said one resident.

Although overrun might be closer to what happened if you talk to county supervisor Candace Andersen.

"What happened was a little glitch. There is another program, it's a national program, that is called IPAWS," said Andersen.

Instead of a localized evacuation order, it went county wide.

"It was an automated response that went a little bit further afield than was intended by county staff. But I would rather have too many people made aware of this crisis than not enough," said Andersen.

As to the how and why of this communication, that's still a matter of debate.

County officials say the Contra Costa County Community Warning System is working with the vendor to make sure this does not happen again.