National Grid transitions to final phase of gas service restoration

East Bay

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — National Grid says they have transitioned into the third and final stage of the restoration process, turning on gas meters and re-lighting customer appliances.

The company has been working with state and local governments to establish a list of critical facilities, including nursing homes, public safety facilities and schools, that will be prioritized in the re-lighting process.

As of Saturday evening, Frank E. Thompson Middle School is back up and running with gas service.  School officials say all Newport public schools will be open on Monday.  School buses will begin running their regular routes as well.

National Grid has begun to contact impacted customers with an automated call as more than 600 service technicians begin customer re-lights in the 19 impacted zones.

They are encouraging customers to be available at their homes and businesses today and Sunday to help expedite their restoration. 

Because the technicians will have to enter each impacted building to re-light all gas appliances, each visit is expected to take about 45 minutes. The company says the overal restoration will take multiple days to complete and that someone over 18 must be present during the process.

“This is another important milestone in the restoration process, but customers should understand this is a major effort and it will take us time to get to each and every home,” said Terry Sobolewski, Chief Customer Officer and SVP, National Grid, US. “We understand the great challenge our customers are facing with this disruption and our team of 1000 gas technicians and customer service folks who are working round the clock will not let up until we have their service restored.”

Customers are also advised not to check out of their alternative lodging until they confirm their gas service has been fully restored. For those who remained home, customers are asked to leave an exterior light on to signal that they don’t mind a National Grid technician knocking on their door.

The company provided several answers to questions residents may ask during this re-lighting process:

Why does National Grid need to re-light all gas appliances?

  • Many older gas appliances and most water heaters have a small, continuously burning gas flame—the pilot light—that ignites the main burner. Some newer models have electronic igniters. When National Grid turned off affected gas meters, pilot lights went out.
  • For safety reasons, only trained and qualified gas technicians should re-light pilot lights on all gas appliances.
  • Customers should never attempt to turn on their meter or re-light gas appliances.
  • As always, if a customer smells gas in their home, business, or outdoors they should call 1-800-640-1595 or 911.

What is the process for turning meters back on and re-lighting gas appliances?

  • The process to re-light gas appliances is methodical and will take some time (approximately 45 minutes per customer). National Grid gas technicians will need to physically enter all impacted properties. National Grid will never engage with a locksmith to enter unoccupied premises to turn meters on or re-light appliances.
  • An individual over the age of 18 must be present on the premise for the re-lighting process to commence.
  • If the customer is at their premises when technicians arrive, National Grid will either turn the meter on outside or enter the premises to turn on the meter and then re-light all gas appliances.
  • Unlike our process in Phase I, we will not enter the property without the customer on the premises.
  • The Company encourages customers to make themselves available at their premises during daytime hours.
  • Our crews will have an ongoing presence in the impacted areas and return to customers houses at various times if they are not home upon first attempt.
  • A specialized task force will be deployed focused on critical facilities to relight and support customer needs.
  • For those customers who have winterized or had their systems drained (e.g. heating systems), National Grid will be unable to re-light their appliances until the system is back to normal operating conditions. Customers are encouraged to contact their trusted HVAC technicians in advance of the re-lighting process.

Additional Information

  • National Grid will continue to update and provide customer information packets at our Customer Information Center, warming center, food trucks, and most hotels throughout the restoration efforts.
  • Community Assistance Vans will be complementing our field personnel during the re-light process beginning on Saturday, January 26, 2019 until 8:00 PM nightly. 20 vans will be located within the community and staffed to answer customer questions as we restore service.

Food Services

  • Florence Gray Community Center, 1 York Street, Newport will be providing free breakfast from 7:30-9 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the remainder of the week.
  • Senior meal sites at Edward King House, 35 King Street and Middletown Senior Center, 670 Green End Avenue will remain open, as well as the Meals on Wheels Program.
  • As part of National Grid’s #IslandEatsOnUs initiative, five food options will be serving hot lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the following locations:
    • FanCheezical, Newport Police Station, 120 Broadway
    • Binge BBQ, Pell Elementary School, 35 Dexter Street
    • Poppy’s Corn and Waffles, Kings Park, Wellington Ave
    • Haven Bros, Commodore Perry Boulevard
    • LoBro, 88 Broadway
    • Customer Liaisons will be positioned at the food trucks for customer support

Additional Contact Information

  • If you smell gas, in your home, business, or outdoors call 1-800-640-1595 or 911.
  • Visit National Grid online by clicking here.
  • To provide any updated contact information call 1-800-870-1664.
  • Other non-emergency questions about service can be addressed by calling our customer service number line at 1-800-322-3223. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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