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Crews Conduct More Checks Following Gas Leak, Evacuation In Downtown Raleigh

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A gas leak in downtown Raleigh has been fixed, and all power has been restored to the area. But crews were conducting follow-up checks Friday to make sure there were no more leaks.

Around 3 p.m. Thursday, an underground natural gas leak shut down power and evacuated several buildings in the Fayetteville Street Mall area. Heavy traffic by construction vehicles in the area where Progress Energy is having a new building built apparently caused the leak.

Full power was not restored until after 9 p.m. for the 350-plus businesses that were affected, after crews had located and repaired the leak with a permanent clamp. The scene was cleared by midnight Thursday, and normal activities were set to resume.

As a precaution, and apparently as part of normal procedure following such a large gas leak, an outside crew was brought in by the gas company to make a through sweep of the downtown area and make sure there were no other leaks.

The power was turned off Thursday by Progress Energy, also as a precaution, after the gas leak was discovered.

An area of approximately four to five blocks was shut down, from Davie Street to the Fayetteville Street Mall, affecting thousands of people.

Activities at the nearby downtown Civic Center were not affected, however. A concert by Harry Connick, Jr., and a Christmas show went on as planned Thursday night.

Once crews pinpointed the leak, near Davie Street and Blount Street, they cut off gas to that area. They clamped the leak and then had Progress Energy turn the power back on.

The outage and evacuation sent people home early from work, while also causing traffic jams and confusion.

"I noticed the commotion," said Joe Luzzi, who works downtown. "The lights were out, people milling around. The elevator in our building wasn't working. The hallway lights were out."

Said another downtown worker, Ryan Wayne: "A man came into our building and told everyone we had to leave, go home. He was closing the building."

Some people chose to wait out the outage at a local restaurant by candlelight. But the restaurant's owner was nervous. He had food ready for a full house but thought the food might go bad if the power stayed out all night.

"The policeman outside said it could be five minutes or five hours," Nick Rossicci said. "We didn't know."

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