Several buildings in Palmer Square were evacuated due to a gas leak caused by a construction accident at around 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 4.
Police officers and firefighters were on the scene to ensure the safety of all in the area and direct traffic away from the leak. No one was harmed.
The leak was at 1 Palmer Square, according to Lieutenant Christopher Nash of the Princeton Police Department (PPD). The building houses PNC Bank, Winberie’s Restaurant & Bar, and J.Crew.
The immediate area was initially cleared once the leak was discovered. People were crowded on Nassau Street as police cars closed off traffic to Witherspoon Street and Palmer Square. In the square were two fire trucks, one ambulance, and several police and fire department vehicles.
While pedestrians were initially allowed to frequent the shops across the street from the leak, by 3:30 p.m. officials had expanded the area that needed to be evacuated, further displacing employees.
Public Service Enterprises Group workers appeared to be repairing the leak through the door of Winberie’s.
At around 3:30 p.m., a police officer told The Daily Princetonian that the leak was already repaired, but the area needed to remain clear in order to let the dangerous levels of gas dissipate. Those in the area could smell gas in the air throughout the afternoon.
Some employees and consumers in Palmer Square businesses first learned of the leak when firefighters came in telling them they needed to evacuate.
Jack Allen ’21, a Prospect writer for the ‘Prince,’ was in Paper Source with friends when a firefighter told them that they needed to evacuate.
“I walked onto Nassau Street and kind of all over campus you could smell this smell of gas,” he said. “Then a firefighter came into Paper Source and asked us to evacuate.” According to Allen, when someone asked for more information, the firefighter said that the gas leak was at explosive levels.
Danielle Fenske, an employee at J.Crew, said that when the fire alarm first went off in the store, people did not immediately evacuate. When the alarm had gone off in the past, it was just a test, she said, so there was not a sense of urgency.
Then someone came in and told everyone to evacuate immediately due to the gas leak. At first, employees were waiting calmly.
“We were just kind of waiting around, and then all of a sudden the fire department started showing up, and we were like, ‘oh, this is kind of serious,’” Fenske said. “Then they started making us move farther and farther away.”
Princeton University Art Museum Store employee Erin Kuhn felt confident that the situation was under control.
“It seems like they shut everything down safely, and they’re taking care of it,” she said. “Business will definitely be slow, which is definitely a small token to make sure everybody is alright.”