What to Know
- Approximately 2,800 homes will have gas outages over a three week period.
- Residents will not be forced to leave their home; those whose homes require gas for heat or cooking may be more comfortable in a hotel.
- Underground pressure from heavy rain forced rock formations to move, causing leaks in the gas line, officials say.
Approximately 2,800 Dallas homes will have planned gas outages for up to three weeks as Atmos Energy crews work to replace the gas line system in a neighborhood where a 12-year-old girl was killed in a gas explosion at her home.
On Saturday, Atmos Energy released an interactive map that will be updated in real time, showing which homes have no gas service and which homes have service, but need to make an appointment with Atmos to have the service restored inside their home. You can view that interactive map by clicking HERE.
Atmos said Thursday excessive rains and runoff over the last few weeks caused underground pressure that pushed two rock formations upward, leading to leakages, according to Kevin Akers, senior vice president of safety and enterprise services for Atmos.
"That means with the extended rain that we have, the amount of rain and runoff and how that flows underground, causes ... those formations to expand up and puts pressure on our system, thus causing leakage," Akers said.
Aging inflexible pipes are being replaced with thick, high-grade plastic ones that offer flexibility when pressure is applied.
Studies over the years by the University of Texas at Arlington and other groups have shown rock formations of clay and other soils in the area expand when saturated. The expansion creates stress that can crack objects buried in the soil.
Atmos executives, who oversee a network that includes more than 3 million customers in eight states, said the events in Dallas are unprecedented.
"This is an experience we've never gone through," said John Paris, president, Mid-Tex Division.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county's top administrator, said Thursday that one line alone had more than two dozen leaks. In addition to the hundreds of homes, authorities evacuated an apartment complex, elementary school and fire station.
Atmos crews and fire department volunteers began going door-to-door at noon Thursday to talk with residents in the affected area and let them know their options. The neighborhood walk and the process of turning off the gas service was expected to last several hours, said Atmos Energy Spokeswoman Jennifer Altieri.
Evacuations were ordered at nearly 50 additional homes early Thursday morning for the even house numbers on Snow White Drive, odd house numbers on Cinderella Lane and homes on Pinocchio Drive. The evacuations are bordered by Sleepy Lane to the north and Royal Lane to the south. For Cinderella Drive, the border is Northhaven Road to the north and Sleepy Lane to the south.
Residents are not required to leave their homes, but will be without gas service for an extended period of time -- and if gas fuels heaters or a stove, those items will not work.
Residents impacted by the outage are asked to check in at one of two recreation centers for information on monetary assistance and any other needs.
Those living west of Marsh Lane are asked to go to the Bachman Recreation Center at 2750 Bachman Drive; those who live east of Marsh Lane are asked to go to the Walnut Hill Recreation Center at 10011 Midway Road.
By late Thursday night more than 100 people were still in line.
Kathryn Snyder waited for nearly four hours outside the Walnut Hill Recreation Center to pick up her $1,200 pre-paid debit card or check.
She said the only thing more frustrating than having to wait is knowing that her home will be without gas service for the next three weeks.
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"Three weeks without gas means three weeks without a home for me," she said.
Atmos believes the money should last for at least five days. If work is still ongoing, residents can get more financial assistance.
Residents can call an Atmos number for questions at 972-964-4191 and check for alerts here.
Residents in need of a hotel are asked to call 888-538-8816.
"We will hold them accountable and make sure they live up to those promises," Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said.
Atmos Energy decided to replace the systems in the area after information provided by a geological expert showed that replacing the lines would be in the best interest, Atmos officials said.
"The system was operating normally [prior to the house explosion] and we are constantly monitoring the system," Akers said. "This is out of an abundance of caution."
Atmos plans to use 120 crews to replace every main and service line in the area, Paris said. All the repairs will be paid for by Atmos.
"We know we've inconvenienced customers, but we are committed to replacing the entire system," Paris said.
The issue with the gas system is limited to the area and does not affect other Atmos customers in Dallas, Atmos officials said.
Atmos officials, Jenkins and Broadnax all offered their condolences to the family of 12-year-old Linda Rogers who was killed in a gas leak explosion last week. They also commended first responders and police for their response.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the explosion of the home where Rogers lived in the 3500 block of Espanola Drive.
Natural gas leaks are rare, but they can be deadly when they occur. Because of that, federal and state regulations require utility companies "odorize" natural gas so that it can be detected by people in normal circumstances. The smell added to natural gas is offensive, similar to that of a rotten egg.
The biggest threat of a natural gas leak is an explosion. The gas becomes extremely volatile when allowed to become concentrated in an enclosed area and a simple spark could cause a devastating explosion.
Atmos Energy recommends the following in the event you think you've detected a gas leak.
- Leave the area immediately and tell other to leave, too.
- Leave any doors open.
- DO NOT turn on or off any electric switch; this could cause a spark, igniting the gas.
- DO NOT use a cell phone, telephone, garage door opener, doorbell or even a flashlight.
- DO NOT smoke, use a lighter or strike a match.
- DO NOT start or stop a nearby vehicle or machinery.
- DO NOT try to shut off a natural gas valve.
- DO NOT assume someone else will report the leak. Once you're safely out of the area, call 911 and Atmos at 866-322-8667 to report the leak.
Gas leaks that occur outside the home are dangerous as well. Most gas lines are buried underground.
Before doing any digging, call 811 at least 48 hours before digging so that utility companies can mark where underground lines are buried in your yard. This service is free and it's the law.