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PG&E Pipeline Explodes During Test, Causes Mudslide On I-280 In Woodside

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PG&E workers inspect a segment of gas pipeline.

PG&E workers inspect a segment of gas pipeline.

WOODSIDE (CBS SF) — A natural gas pipeline that was undergoing safety testing burst open Sunday afternoon, sending water, mud and rocks across a portion of northbound Interstate Highway 280 in Woodside.

The burst line was first detected a little before 3:30 p.m., when a driver contacted the Woodside Fire Department, saying that a large geyser of water was getting cars on both sides of the freeway wet near Farm Hill Boulevard, said Battalion Chief Kevin Butler.

Moments later, an explosion was reported in the same area, along with a large volume of flowing water.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found a large amount of mud, rocks and debris from the hillside east of the freeway scattered across the northbound lanes. There was also a faint smell of natural gas, Butler said.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

Butler said they learned that PG&E had been conducting hydrostatic testing of natural gas pipelines in the area, meaning that water is pumped through the lines to detect any weak points.

After the area tested safe for gas levels, fire crews searched the hillside next to the freeway and located a 5 foot by 5 foot crater caused by a ruptured gas line. The crater was located in an easement running behind homes, and the closest house was about 100 yards away, Butler said.

The pipeline that burst had been emptied of gas before testing began.

The mudslide initially shut down all of northbound Interstate 280. The right lane remained closed while crews remove the remaining debris from the road, according to the California Highway Patrol.

There were no injuries, but one vehicle was damaged by pieces of dirt and rock, Butler said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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