Crews repair gas line

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Barring an unforeseen mishap during pipeline repair, the city&8217;s utility department plans to be out early today getting customers&8217; gas turned back on &8212; one house at a time.

Before it can begin, however, the pipeline that burst Wednesday on Whitehall Plantation must be replaced. Crews from Enbridge Company, which owns the pipeline, and Wilco Pipeline Company, a contractor, worked to complete the job in time to begin providing the city with natural gas by nighttime.

&8220;If nothing goes wrong tonight, we&8217;ll have gas back to those guys tonight,&8221; Gary Gilbert of Mid-Louisiana Gas, an Enbridge subsidiary and the local operator, said.

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That&8217;s good news, but it doesn&8217;t mean hot showers for most Vidalians this morning.

Vidalia Utilities Supervisor Mark Morace said only when his department gets its supply back can it go out and reconnect customers.

Schools and businesses were to be the first ones to get their gas back, then the crews would start on the tedious job of restoring residential gas.

&8220;We&8217;re going to have to turn each individual meter on and light the pilots as we go,&8221; he said.

Morace and his crews should have a good idea of where each meter is, as they had to turn off and lock them individually Wednesday after the explosion, a process that took them well into the early morning hours.

Locking the meters was a safety precaution, he said. When the meter is reactivated, the gas begins to flow whether the pilot is lit or not.

&8220;If we didn&8217;t do it, all the houses would fill up with gas,&8221; he said. &8220;It&8217;s not like turning the water back on.&8221;

Morace said he had crews coming in from nearby towns and other gas companies to help with the legwork. They will be divided up into teams and sent through neighborhoods to do the job.

He recommended trying to have someone home to let the workers in, although he couldn&8217;t be more specific about timing.

&8220;We&8217;ll have lists by street for the different crews, but it&8217;s hard to coordinate because we&8217;re not sure how many crews are coming,&8221; he said.

In the meantime, Vidalians are thankful the explosion and gas shutdown occurred while the weather is warm.

&8220;It&8217;s a little inconvenient, but not the end of the world,&8221; Barbara Roberts said. &8220;I&8217;m just thankful there was no loss of life.&8221;

Roberts, a longtime Vidalia resident, said she&8217;s seen worse.

&8220;I remember when we had the ice storm and lost power for 48 hours,&8221; she said. &8220;Now, that was bad. This, I can handle.&8221;

Mayor Hyram Copeland said he&8217;s been hearing a lot of this positive attitude from citizens.

&8220;The public has been very patient and we appreciate that,&8221; he said. &8220;We&8217;ll work as diligently as we can&8230; we&8217;ll work through the weekend, but we&8217;re going to get it done.&8221;