PARKERSBURG - The heat was back on for more than 200 Dominion Hope natural gas customers on the south side Thursday, and crews were working into the evening to restore service to more.
Approximately 450 customers were left without gas service Wednesday after water infiltrated gas lines between and around Broadway Avenue and Elder Street. The opening was repaired Wednesday, and Dominion crews from West Virginia and Ohio went to work vacuuming water from the lines.
Some service was restored late Wednesday and throughout the day on Thursday, but many residents had to resort to portable heaters and extra layers to stay warm until then. People who rely on natural gas water heaters were without hot water as well.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Dominion Hope supervisor Don Thomas, right, gives instructions to customer service A techs Bill Smith, left, and Jeff Brandon Thursday morning in the parking lot of the Broadway Church of the Nazarene before they began to canvass the Parkersburg neighborhood to check natural gas lines for water.
"We boiled water to take baths," said 11th Avenue resident Donna Worstell. "It was an indoor camping experience - Parkersburg Extreme."
Worstell's service was restored around noon Thursday.
"I have to praise the crews that came in here and worked all hours of the night," she said. "They didn't waste any time."
About 45 Dominion trucks were parked in the lot of the Broadway Church of the Nazarene, with workers from Clarksburg, Akron, Youngstown and more brought in to get service up and running again. On Thursday morning they fanned out through the neighborhood to test individual gas lines for the presence of water and either clean them out using vacuum trucks or, if they were clear, restore service and check appliances in the homes.
"We're working as hard as we can to resolve the issue," said Mark Barnes, director of operations for Dominion.
Dominion spokesman Bob Fulton said an adult needs to be home when the gas service is restarted. Residents still without service are asked to contact the company at 800-688-4673 to let them know when someone will be home.
Dominion also worked with the Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross and Wood County emergency services to arrange overnight shelter for customers in need. They were asked to contact the 911 Center's non-emergency line at 304-485-8501.
The knock on the door from a Dominion service technician was a welcome sound to 11th Avenue resident Holly Nelson, who said she, her husband and her daughter had been huddled around an electric heater while the gas was off.
"That's a little more family bonding time than need be," she said. "(We) need our own space."
Elsewhere on 11th Avenue, Gwen Yearego and her friend Tom Howard took turns sleeping Wednesday night to keep an eye on the portable heaters they were using for warmth.
"We set up in the living room all night to keep the heat on and watch them," Howard said. "We kept it 74 (degrees) in there."
Experts advise people using portable heaters to keep flammable items at least three feet away from them.
Many residents on Thursday said they were doing well in spite of the lack of heat.
"I'm an outdoors guy. I'm prepared," said 11th Avenue resident Dan Epling, who relied on propane heaters for warmth. "You can't cook. (But) if that's the worst I ever have to face, I won't have any trouble."
A number were more concerned about how their older neighbors were faring than themselves.
Betty Mills took electric heaters to two elderly neighbors on 10th Avenue and contacted their relatives to let them know what was happening. Several other people shared heaters and checked on their neighbors as well.
"We have, I feel, a nice neighborhood, and people kind of look out for one another," Mills said.
Residents also took care of the workers in the cold, bringing them coffee and other items, Dominion officials said.