Schools are closed and a warming centre has been established in Lumby as more than 1,200 customers in Lumby are without natural gas.
Gas was shut off due to repairs needed at a high-pressure gas main in Lavington, following a car accident Thursday morning. Residents within 300 metres of the incident were evacuated Thursday, but were allowed back home by 9:40 p.m.
But in order to complete repairs, gas had to be shut off, leaving more than 1,200 Lumby customers without service.
Highway 6 was also closed, and traffic was routed around the area, but the highway was fully reopened just before midnight Thursday.
Repairs to the damaged gas main were completed by Friday morning and the system was reactivated by noon. Now natural gas technicians will visit more than 1,200 customers in Lumby to relight gas appliances.
“We anticipate this will be complete by Saturday evening,” said Michael Allison, spokesperson for Fortis BC. “In order to speed the restoration, we’ve brought in natural gas technicians from around our service territory to assist with reactivating the system and relighting customers’ appliances.”
If no one is home, FortisBC service crews will leave door tags that provide contact information. If customers receive a door tag, they should call 1-877-711-8877 for relights.
In the meantime, school has been cancelled today for children at Charles Bloom Secondary and JW Inglis Elementary.
“Teachers and CEAs will be asked to go to the school closest to their home for work,” said Joe Rogers, school district superintendent. “Teachers can work in the library or staffroom. CEAs can help as needed.”
A warming station has also been set up at the White Valley Community Hall (2250 Shields Ave.) for residents who are concerned about their safety as a result of the outage. Residents can access the heating room by contacting 547-2160. No one had used the station as of Friday morning.
“Our intention is the maintain it during the day, then assess things (in conjunction with North Okanagan Emergency Management) into the afternoon and determine whether to keep it available overnight,” said Jeremy Sundin, with the Village of Lumby.
“We would like to thank customers for their patience and support in during our effort to restore service as quickly and as safely as possible,” said Allison.
Residents are reminded to follow these safety tips:
- If you smell rotten eggs it could be natural gas. Go outside and call 1-800-663-9911 or 911.
- Never operate a barbecue, camp stove or lantern in an enclosed space.
- When heating your home with a wood-burning fireplace, open the damper and partially open a window or door at or below the level of the fireplace when the fireplace is in use; close the damper after each fire, but only after the ashes are cool.
An emergency situation broke out in Lavington Thursday as natural gas spewed into the air, causing evacuations and detours.
A motorist travelling eastbound on Highway 6 lost control and struck an above-ground structure protecting a high-pressure gas line at approximately 9 a.m. The driver was taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with undetermined injuries.
Kelly Kirkland lives across Highway 6 from where the incident took place, at the corner of Park Lane.
“I heard a big bang and I looked out the window and there was a bunch of brown-like grey smoke billowing out at the corner of Park Lane and the highway,” said Kirkland, as she peered out her hillside home. “I just immediately called 911 because I was pretty sure it was a gas line.”
The line, which transports gas from Vernon to Lumby and beyond, continued to spew gas for most of the day.
“It’s very, very loud down there,” said Kirkland of the noise of gas escaping the line. “You can hear the hissing, it’s so loud, from my house.”
She adds: “And you can really smell it.”
In fact the rotten-egg smell was detected as far as Vernon, more than 20 kilometres away.
Kirkland, along with all residents on both sides of the highway between Hill Drive and Springfield Road were evacuated from their homes while Terasen and emergency crews dealt with the situation. As a precaution, the Vernon School District also evacuated Lavington Elementary students, transporting them to Coldstream Elementary.
The Coldstream Women’s Institute was the reception area for evacuated residents to make contact with Emergency Social Services.
It was unknown, as of press time, when residents might be able to return to their homes.
Since the car was sitting right on top of the gas line, and due to its high pressure, crews could not simply move the car to fix the line due to the potential for spark.
“It’s definitely a high-pressure line,” said Lumby RCMP Cpl. Henry Proce while on scene. “You can hear it venting so if it were to erupt in flames it would be quite the scene.”
Michael Allison, spokesperson for Fortis BC, anticipated crews would be able to bring gas under control Thursday evening. But while repairs are made, customers in Lumby would be cut off the service.
“We do thank customers, we know this is a big inconvenience to people especially since I hear it’s quite cold there,” said Allison, adding that crews would be going door-to-door to re-light homes with gas furnaces.
Despite the strong odour, Allison says the safest way to deal with the situation was to let gas blow clear.
“Since it is all clear, we can see it, we know where it is and we can see it’s dissipating,” he said, as crews determined the best course of action to fix the break.
“Ultimately our goal is safety.”