Police evacuated two blocks of homes on the Balboa Peninsula Thursday afternoon after workers broke a gas line near the Newport Beach Pier.
A city contractor using heavy equipment to move sand on the beach accidentally hit the 8-inch steel pipe that runs near the boardwalk, authorities said.
Crews were working to pinch off the line Thursday evening, but repairs could take days, said Jennifer Vaughn, a Southern California Gas Company spokeswoman.
"There's likely not a valve that's easy to turn off," she said.
Workers planned to shut down the line at 23rd Street by about 7:30 or 8 p.m., allowing people to return to the homes, authorities said.
After capping the leak, about 2,200 customers south of 23rd Street will be left without gas, Vaughn said Thursday afternoon.
Crews could start restoring service by Friday morning, but some customers could be cut off from gas through the weekend, according to Vaughn.
Heather Rider is renting a vacation home with family in Newport and said authorities warned them they had to leave at about 1:15 p.m.
Officers evacuated homes between 20th and 19th streets from Court Street to the beach, Newport Beach police Lt. Jeff Brouwer said.
There are worse places to be stranded outside, Rider said.
The eight adults and six kids in their group passed the time by ordering pizza to a nearby playground.
"They've just been playing in the sand and the ocean," Rider said. "Hopefully we'll be able to get back in tonight."
Displaced residents can take shelter at the old city hall building at 3300 Newport Blvd., according to a city news release.