‘Several hundred’ more residents of Charleston’s West Side were affected by a gas outage
A sign in on the front of Gordon Algoe’s West Side home asks Mountaineer Gas workers to restore his family’s gas service. Algoe said the heat in the home was restored Tuesday afternoon but his gas oven would need to be fixed before it can be used again. (Lori Kersey | West Virginia Watch)
Mountaineer Gas has restored service to an estimated 1,000 customers on Charleston’s West Side, but in the process workers found “several hundred” more affected households than its original 1,100 estimate, the gas company said in an update Tuesday afternoon.
Moses Skaff, senior vice president for Mountaineer Gas, said the company does not have a definitive number for how many customers were affected by the outage.
“As we’re continually putting mains back online, we’re finding customers that were not in our original estimate,” Skaff said. “At the end of the day we’ll have a very definitive amount, but right now I don’t want to get into ‘X amount of [customers].’”
Skaff said a customer is “restored” when they have gas ready to use in their home when their appliances are working. The company did not yet have estimates for how many customers’ appliances need repairs.
The gas outage started Friday, Nov. 10 because of a “significant sustained water leak” that infiltrated the company’s natural gas distribution system.
The company said Tuesday that service has been restored to approximately 90% of the company’s 46 miles of gas line on the West Side.
“That’s like driving from here to Huntington and stopping every 400 feet or so, and digging a hole to purge water out of the line,” Skaff said. “That’s actually what’s happening. We have well over 200 holes over there that we’ve had to dig out or dig into, to restore our gas services.”
The company anticipates main line restoration in four days, but restoring gas service to individual households will depend on whether customer’s appliances need to be repaired, Skaff said.
Carly Guthrie, who lives on Seventh Street, said Tuesday she and her family have struggled to stay warm without the gas on. The temperature in the old house dips to 50 degrees at night. She, her husband and three kids stopped using space heaters at night after an outlet in her 8-year-old’s room melted, coming dangerously close to starting a fire.
“We can’t use the space heaters at night now because I’m terrified that they are going to set our house on fire,” Guthrie said.
Now they huddle around a heater in the day and use the electric blankets at night.
Gordon Algoe’s Hunt Avenue home had a sign with a simple message to Mountaineer Gas Tuesday afternoon: “Please Connect the Gas Here.” He strung the banner across the home’s railing on Monday.
“They need to just come and get it fixed, taken care of,” Algoe said. “Thanksgiving is Thursday. Unfortunately, we can’t even cook because we still don’t have gas for our gas stove… We’re hoping they come soon and take care of us.”
By 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, the gas company had restored the Algoes’ gas, but the family will have to wait a little longer to cook.
“There was water in the oven. It won’t work.” Algoe said. “They said it’s going to be a couple days until they send someone here to take care of it.”
Also Tuesday, the city of Charleston announced that Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin and members of Charleston City Council sent a letter to the state Public Service Commission asking that it reject the rate hikes requested by West Virginia American Water and Mountaineer Gas. If the PSC does not reject them, the letter asks that the PSC delay raising rates for customers of the West Side until April 1, 2024, or later.
“During a time when our families on the West Side are struggling, it is imperative we do everything we can to lessen the burden,” Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said in a news release. “As utility rates continue to rise, it becomes more difficult for our families to make ends meet. We strongly urge the PSC to consider our request — especially as we approach winter and the holiday season.”
Mountaineer Gas said 51 crews and about 200 personnel, along with contractors would continue to work through the Thanksgiving holiday to restore gas service.
“We’re committed to restoring the customers safely and that’s our main priority,” Skaff said.
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