Harried police and fire agencies in northern Oakland County handled hundreds of panicked phone calls after residents reported hearing an explosion, then a jarring whirring sound, just after 10 p.m.
As word spread of a natural gas main rupture around a nearby processing plant, dozens of residents, mostly in Auburn Hills, Orion Township and Oakland Township, evacuated their homes either by police request or by choice.
Some went to relatives' homes; others, to Rochester Adams High School in Rochester Hills, which was briefly opened as an emergency shelter. No injuries were reported.
By midnight, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the danger had subsided.
The gas was shut off, and residents were welcomed back to their homes.
"We're still not exactly sure why it happened," Bouchard said. "That's what we'll be looking into next."
Bouchard said a 26-inch gas main erupted, shooting gas into the air for about an hour.
He said the rupture appeared to have originated at a processing plant near Squirrel Road south of Silver Bell in Orion Township.
Deputies set up a perimeter around the area, he said. He didn't know how many residents fled their homes, but nearby roads quickly filled with cars.
Donn Tignanelli, who lives on Tienken between Adams and Squirrel in Rochester, said the noise sounded like "a jet hovering over the house" and kept whirring long after it started at around 10:15 p.m.
Bill LaRosa and his girlfriend "thought initially a plane was going to crash right over our heads" at their condo at Adams and Silver Bell in Oakland Township.
They walked outside to listen, along with many of their neighbors.
"Everybody was outside, freaking out," LaRosa said.
Some drove away -- either toward the noise to investigate, or away from it to get away. LaRosa and girlfriend Krista Meckley packed up their frightened cat, Leo, and went to LaRosa's uncle's home 15 minutes away -- where they could still hear the noise.
At about 12:15 p.m., they heard they were out of danger and headed back home.
Police were clearly overwhelmed answering the phones late Sunday. The Oakland County Sheriff's Office dispatch line was busy for more than 20 minutes; police in Auburn Hills greeted callers with, "You reporting a loud noise?"
A man answering the phone at the Rochester Hills Fire Department answered, "Is this an emergency?" He hung up when the answer was no.
Rochester Hills police said they'd been fielding numerous calls. A dispatcher there said they'd heard only that it was a gas main explosion.
"There's some gas in that area," Bouchard said, "so we're cordoning people off in that area, but we just don't know what the danger is yet."
Distributed by the Associated Press