A shopping center was evacuated Tuesday afternoon after a gas leak was reported at the former Kroger grocery store on South Illinois Avenue.
Emergency workers remained on the scene for several hours and were still there as of about 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The gas leak was reported at about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, and Oak Ridge emergency workers quickly evacuated surrounding stores, including China Wok, Nixon’s Deli, Mr. K’s Used Books and CDs, and Big Kmart. They also closed off the surrounding parking lot.
An employee at Mr. K’s smelled gas inside the store Tuesday afternoon, evening manager Kelly Smith said. The staff initially thought it might be coming from NIxon’s, the deli next door. But then they learned that Nixon’s doesn’t use natural gas. A walk around the shopping center’s parking lot determined that the gas was probably coming from the former Kroger store, Smith said.
The odor was getting stronger and stronger, he said.
Mr. K’s called the Oak Ridge Utility District, which provides natural gas, and ORUD called the Oak Ridge police and fire departments, Smith said.
“When they opened those doors (at Kroger), the whole parking lot just stunk,” Smith said.
He said Mr. K’s was evacuated at about 3:55 p.m. Tuesday.
“They were very forceful,” said Smith, who waited at the nearby McDonald’s restaurant until he could return to the store. “They just told us to get out now.”
The Oak Ridge Fire Department appeared to be continuing to work on ventilating the store and measuring gas levels with the help of ORUD at about 7 p.m. There were no reports of injuries.
More information will be added as it becomes available.