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Construction workers and businesses were evacuated briefly from the scene of a gas leak in Prince Frederick Wednesday morning.

At about 9 a.m. Wednesday, emergency teams began arriving on the scene of the gas leak at the Calvert Village Shopping Center in Prince Frederick, Capt. Steve Jones of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office said.

At about 11 a.m., authorities issued the all-clear for patrons and workers to re-enter the area.

Jones said just before 2 p.m., the center had been reopened for the day but was without gas.

The leak, caused by a backhoe that struck a 3-inch gas line at the TJ Maxx construction site on the premises, necessitated that the shopping center, as well as a nearby health center, be evacuated while responders located the shutoff valve, Jones said at about 9:35 a.m. Wednesday.

The evacuation, Jones said, was mostly a precautionary measure due to the strong odor of the gas in the nearby buildings.

“What we don’t want to be is in a confined area, and you’re inhaling all this gas,” he said, standing outside at the site. “Here, we have all this open air and we can get fresh air into our lungs.”

In the event of a leak such as this one, protocol is used to establish a “hot zone” and determine what kind of hazardous material responders are dealing with — in this case, airborne natural gas, said Deputy Gary Ward of the sheriff’s office.

At about 9:40 a.m., Jones predicted that workers from Washington Gas, the owner of the gas line, would arrive in about 30 minutes to locate the shutoff valve and cease the flow.

Although Jones said the potential for a catastrophic explosion did not exist, cars within the immediate area of the leak were banned from starting, as that could cause the gas to ignite.

“A 3-inch line just blowing full tilt and it’s not stopping, so that is just pouring out of there, continuously,” Jones said. He added that a fire could follow if the gas were to ignite.

Those who responded to the scene included the St. Leonard, Prince Frederick, Huntingtown and North Beach volunteer fire departments, as well as troopers from the Maryland State Police Prince Frederick barrack, sheriff’s office and sheriff’s office Special Operations Team and the Hazardous Materials Team.

afrazier@somdnews.com