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East Ridge High School re-opens; odor that caused evacuation determined to be benign

East Ridge High School was evacuated Friday after a natural gas odor was detected in the building. There were no reported injuries. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker)

Students were invited to return to East Ridge High School Friday afternoon after officials determined that an odor detected earlier in the day – and prompted an evacuation – at the building was benign.

The smell originated from a tar composite being used outside school grounds at a nearby construction project, said Woodbury Public Safety Officer Michelle Okada. When the odor worked its way into East Ridge’s ventilation system, it smelled like natural gas to many in the building, she explained.

“It was several teachers that were calling into the office,” Okada said.

Xcel Energy workers and Woodbury Public Safety staff scoured the building for hours and ultimately concluded the scent was from the construction site. Roads leading into the school were closed off during the investigation.

Okada said that while the event ended up fitting a much-ado-about-nothing profile, it also fit another cliché: better safe than sorry.

“When you have a couple thousand students,” she said, “it elevates it to a different level.”

School grounds are now open for students and, later, for fans of tonight’s 7 p.m. section football playoff game between the Raptors and Eastview.

Students can pick up personal items through 6:30 p.m. tonight, according to a district news release.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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