NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — National Grid is working to repair a widespread, low-pressure gas situation in Newport and Middletown that has left more than 7,000 customers without gas amid dangerously cold weather conditions.
President of National Grid in Rhode Island Tim Horan said the fire department began receiving sporadic phone calls about residents’ gas turning off unexpectedly around 11 a.m. Monday.
Horan said out of an abundance of caution, they’ve suspended gas service to 7,100 customers, mostly in Newport.
“The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our number one priority and concern, and National Grid is working around-the-clock to safely and reliably restore service,” Horan said.
National Grid reported a frozen valve issue near Old Mill Lane in Portsmouth, which needed to be repaired in order to build pressure back up into the system.
Horan said the valve has since been repaired and the system is stable, but the loss of pressure has resulted in some customers losing service. He said the problem stems from a lack of transmission supply from their natural gas supplier, Algonguin Gas Transmission Co.
“This appears to be a lack of gas transmission supply to our system,” Horan said. “The system is stable at this time. We have folks out in the area in Newport, Portsmouth and Middletown checking on our customers.”
National Grid is deploying 1,000 gas workers and support personnel to assist in restoration efforts.
“The extreme cold is a major concern for us and we apologize for this significant disruption. We encourage all to check on the elderly and your neighbors and ensure you have a plan to stay warm,” Horan said.
While there is no indication at this time of any damage to the distribution system, National Grid said some customers may not have gas for several days.
Horan said crews are working on diagnosing the problem and are going door to door checking each homes’ gas levels.
He stressed that this situation is not comparable to what happened in Merrimack Valley, which was caused by overpressurized gas.
“This is an underpressure issue from the gas transmission line into our system,” Horan explained.
Due to the frigid weather conditions, warming centers have been opened in Newport and Middletown. Gov. Gina Raimondo said any residents affected that choose to stay at a hotel will be reimbursed by the National Grid.
The Gaudet School will be open as a warming shelter until the issue has been resolved. Officials ask anyone who visits this warming shelter to use the Aquidneck Road entrance.
The American Red Cross is managing the shelter at the Gaudet School. Shelter Manager Carmela Greer said they are ready to accept any residents seeking warmth.
“Bring your favorite pillow bring your favorite blankie, if there’s something that keeps you warm,” Greer said. “We’ll be able to give you a Red Cross blanket, but you’re going to want something from home to keep you very comfortable.”
Raimondo declared a State of Emergency in Newport County, activating the National Guard to assist residents.
“This is a major event, a dangerous event and we all need to help each other,” Raimondo said.
The Community College of Rhode Island’s Newport campus and Donovan Manor have also been opened as warming shelters.
Raimondo said the University of Rhode Island Ryan Center is also open as a warming center to assist with any overflow at the previously listed warming centers.
The Murray Judicial Complex in Newport will be closed due to the gas service issue until further notice. All court matters in Newport County will be rescheduled.
Horan urged affected residents to stay at a warming shelter or with friends and family until the issue is resolved. The Potter League for Animals is accepting pets from those seeking shelter.
With about 7,000 National Grid customers now without gas service on Aquidneck Island, @PotterLeague is accepting pets – operating as an emergency animal shelter in Middletown, RI. They’re urging people not to leave pets home without heat. They’ll be staffed 24/7. @wpri12 pic.twitter.com/4NNcqvQ6qB— Corey Welch (@CoreyWelch) January 22, 2019
Newport Public Schools closed Tuesday due to the ongoing gas outages.
“The school department will keep families updated as best as possible on Tuesday regarding any future school closures,” the school district said in a statement Monday evening.
@GovRaimondo has declared a State of Emergency for Newport County after National Grid has shut off gas to 7,000 residential customers. The Governor said it is not safe for people to stay in their homes w/o heat tonight. Call 211 for assistance with shelter, rides, etc.— Rhode Island EMA (@RhodeIslandEMA) January 22, 2019
Salve Regina University also cancelled classes for Tuesday at their Newport campus.
Raimondo said anyone who needs help during this time can contact 211.
Anyone who smells natural gas in their home should contact National Grid at 1-800-640-1595.