Almost a week since a deadly home explosion killed one child and prompted ongoing evacuations, Atmos Energy announced in an early morning press conference today that it would shut down gas service to 2,800 homes.
The company later announced that evacuations were continuing. The latest round is much farther north than the previous evacuations. At 2 a.m., they evacuated 30 homes in the Disney Streets (even numbered homes on Snow White, odd-numbered homes on Pinocchio, both between Sleepy Lane and Royal Lane). Shortly before 3 a.m., they evacuated another 16 homes along Pinnochio (even) and Cinderella (odd), between Northaven and Sleepy Lane.
City and county officials, as well as representatives from Atmos Energy held a 5 a.m. press conference to announce what Atmos is calling an “unprecedented” measure.
“Over the last 24 hours, as we continued to try and stabilize this system, from a performance standpoint we reached the conclusion late yesterday afternoon and early last evening that we would take the step of shutting down the system,” John Paris, Atmos Mid-Tex Division president said.
“We will immediately begin a process, with more than 120 contract crews, to begin to replace every distribution main in the area, every service line in the area,” he continued. “We’ll put new gas meters in.”
“With the extended rain that we’ve had, the amount of rain, runoff, and how that flows underground, causes certain parts of those formations to expand up and put pressure on our system, thus causing leakage,” Atmos senior vice president Kevin Akers explained.
The two said crews would be working 24 hours a day until all the lines were replaced and the repair work was finished.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that the current steel pipe will be replaced with new, state-of-the-art PVC-type pipe that is “more forgiving” in situations where the ground shifts.
“This is not an evacuation. This is a de-gasification affecting approximately 2,800 homes,” Jenkins said. “I fully support their decision to shut down the system and bring it back up as soon as possible.”
“We are devoting every resource necessary to support Atmos,” Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said. “We have opened up our Emergency Operations Center to ensure that we can provide all the assistance that they need to get them through this particular issue.
The outage will affect customers in an area that includes a vast swath of Midway Hollow, and a large portion of the neighborhood across Marsh that includes the areas where three separate gas-related incidents occurred recently, including last Friday’s home explosion that killed Linda Rogers, a 12-year-old. Her funeral is today.
The official borders are Walnut Hill, Northwest Highway, Lakemont Drive, and Webb Chapel. Atmos officials said it could take three weeks to replace all the lines and meters.
“Mandatory relocations are not necessary in the affected neighborhoods,” assistant city manager Jon Fortune told the city council in a memo this morning. “Residents are welcome to stay in their homes, however there will not be natural gas service.
“Atmos, City staff and volunteers will be distributing letters to residents in the impacted area to inform them of the outage and provide information on assistance for lodging and living needs,” he added.
Fortune said that Atmos Energy is working with Dallas ISD to avoid disruption to schools in the area, which include Cigarroa Elementary and Foster Elementary.