Natural Gas Crisis: Mandatory Evacuations Stretch Into a Week

What to Know

  • Natural gas service stored Monday to 140 homes: Atmos
  • 120 construction crews continue to work 24/7 on repairs
  • Atmos offering hotels & financial assistance to eligible residents

More than 100 Atmos Energy crews continue to repair gas lines in Northwest Dallas weeks after a 12-year-old girl was killed in a gas explosion at her home.

Over the last week, Patricia Vega and her four children have packed into her parents’ two bedroom apartment to wait out a mandatory evacuation.

“I’m wondering when we can go back to the apartments, especially for my kids,” said Vega. “They want their own toys. They know their routine, what time they go to sleep and now it’s different.”

Vega’s home at the Chapel Creek apartments on Hidalgo Drive has been off-limits since Feb. 26, when Atmos discovered a gas leak outside the complex. Firefighters told people in approximately 90 units that they had to leave.

Vega, with only minutes to evacuate, grabbed her kids’ school uniforms and has played the rest by ear.

“You had to buy a lot of extra clothing or shoes, whatever you need for the kids. For me too,” said Vega.

Sunday, Atmos Energy told NBC 5 it doesn’t have information on when people at Chapel Creek can return home. The energy company said it’s continuing to provide hotel rooms and financial help during the evacuation and will cover rent for those who can’t go back to their apartments.

The energy company has also warned residents of scam artists posing as Atmos agents.

Elsewhere in Northwest Dallas, crews continue to work on natural gas lines after 12 year old Linda Rogers was killed during an explosion at her home on Espanola Drive Feb. 23.

On Monday, Atmos said gas service has been restored to 140 homes that were evacuated prior to the March 1 planned outage. It remains unclear when repairs will be completed.

Last week, Atmos announced crews would spend up to three weeks replacing gas lines in a section of Northwest Dallas. Natural gas service to 2,800 customers would be shut off while the lines are replaced.

The area is bordered by Webb Chapel Road to the west, Walnut Hill Lane on the north edge, Lakemont Drive to the east, and W Northwest Highway along the southern border of the work zone. Most in this area do not have to evacuate, but Atmos says it will pay for hotel rooms if customers chose to leave. Some have chosen to stay home, others have gone to hotels because they don’t have hot water or heat in their homes.

Atmos published a map on its website to allow people impacted by the natural gas outage to check back to see when service can be reconnected.

Atmos says residents can also call 972-964-4191. Information Centers set up at Bachman Recreation Center at 2750 Bachman Drive and Walnut Hill Recreation Center at 10011 Midway Road are open between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Or, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Natural Gas Safety

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. 

If You Think You Smell a Gas Leak

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.

Online: Atmos Energy: Recognizing a Gas Leak

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