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Close to 2,800 North Dallas customers of natural gas distributor Atmos Energy Corp. may be without service for up to three weeks as the company attempts to stabilize the system following an explosion that caused the death of a 12-year-old girl.
The planned outage by the Dallas-based company was announced on Thursday and follows record rainfall during February. More than 11 inches of rain fell, up from a previous record of about seven inches.
The planned outage was triggered following the death of Linda “Michellita” Rogers, 12, who died Feb. 23 in her northwest Dallas home after a gas explosion was blamed for collapsing the roof and blowing the house off of its foundation.
“Due to sudden and unexplained leaks on our system, during the extraordinary rains in North Texas, we have implemented continuous survey patrols in this area,” Atmos management said. “We are replacing our entire natural gas distribution system, including mains and service lines with the state-of-the-art materials.
More than 120 crews have been deployed to work seven days a week around the clock.
“Our plan is to restore service in phases over the next two to three weeks,” said management. “Additionally, we will have plumbers on site to make repairs to any natural gas appliances or piping at no cost to the customer.”
The largest regulated, gas-only distributor in the nation, serves more three million distribution customers in 1,400-plus communities in eight states. Atmos also manages a company-owned natural gas pipeline and storage assets, including one of the largest intrastate natural gas pipeline systems in Texas.
“Based on what we found through our continuous survey patrols, we made the decision to engage a geological expert to help us understand why our system is performing this way,” management said. “His findings indicate that there are two geological formations within this area which are impacting our system.”
The rain and runoff over the past few weeks made the formations expand, “thus putting pressure on our pipe, causing leaks.”
To compensate customers for the lack of gas service, Atmos as of Thursday had provided more than $1.25 million for assistance. It had served more than 830 customers at two centers as of Thursday. More than 60 Atmos volunteers and dozens of American Red Cross and Community Emergency Response Team volunteers were working to improve processes at the information centers.
Atmos distributed fliers containing information on the planned outage to all residences impacted. It also deployed compressed natural gas to the only school impacted, Stephen C. Foster Elementary School. More than 100 residents evacuated from their homes by the gas explosion last month have had service restored, Atmos said.