PG&E Investigating Gas Odor, As Students Are Sent Home Early

Downtown Oakland. (Craig Miller/KQED)

All Oakland public schools have been dismissed early today because of a strong odor of natural gas spreading through the city, school district officials said.

Initially the school district evacuated only five schools in the West Oakland, downtown and Lake Merritt areas, but said about 3:30 p.m. that all schools citywide, including preschools, would be dismissed.

Parents are being asked to pick up their children as soon as possible.

"We heard from principals that there was vomiting at some sites, some kids were nauseous. And when they tried to enter the school after PG&E said that it was safe, the smell was just too overpowering," said Troy Flint, the spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District. "I'm sure that PG&E was right that there was no threat or danger, which is something that we informed our parents."

School district officials said the smell appears to be the result of an incident at a PG&E facility. A fire dispatcher said the source of the smell appears to be in West Oakland.

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PG&E officials said that they are investigating the source of the smell but have not determined where it's coming from.

PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said the utility has received reports about the smell primarily in the downtown Oakland, West Oakland and Lake Merritt areas, but crews are still working to determine its source.

City spokeswoman Karen Boyd said that City Hall, the Ronald Dellums Federal Building and other downtown office buildings were evacuated because of the smell around 1:30 p.m. but the evacuation order was lifted about 2:30 p.m.

A BART dispatcher said the transit agency received reports of the odor from the 12th Street, 19th Street, Lake Merritt, West Oakland and Embarcadero stations.

The smell has not caused any disruption in BART service. The Fire Department checked the stations and everything there is safe, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.

Alameda fire officials said that the smell was also noticeable in their city.

Lisa Pickoff-White and Julia McEvoy contributed to this report.