BUFFALO, N.Y. - It a common site on streets across western New York this spring, orange cones poking out between the trees, and scarred lawns where gas lines have been repaired.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that this story came to me in a very direct way, with the discovery in my kitchen that there was no gas coming through my stove, nor my hot water tank, nor my furnace. Two days later, there is a mound of dirt in my front yard, and a new access point for National Fuel crews to stop by periodically and pump water from the gas line. It is something field workers told me they have been called in to address all over western New York.
National Fuel spokesperson Karen Merkel says "we have been very busy in some very extreme conditions. According to our records, the winter of 2013-2014 was the second coldest winter on record in history." National Fuel records show temperatures about 13-point-3 percent colder than normal. The cold, along with the precipitation led to deeper frost penetration and problems on a number of systems, theirs included.
Tremont Avenue in Kenmore is a prime example. It was the site of one of the two major outages experienced this winter by National Fuel customers, the other being on Buffalo's east side. In Kenmore though, Merkel explains it was a case of one utility failure affecting another. "A water main actually broke, sending significant amounts of water into the gas-lines which then traveled into service lines."
Tammy Hall lives on Tremont and says that the water didn't only make it into gas lines, she says in some cases on the street, it made it all the way into homes. "In some people's homes water was coming up through the stove."
And while Merkel could not produce specific numbers regarding water in gas lines, she did say that it has been a very busy season, that is getting busier with the spring thaw. Another lasting effect of the harsh winter we all went through.
Crews were working late into the night Thursday to get power restored to Town of Tonawanda customers. Merkel said up to 250 households were affected at the height of the problem.
If you do experience problems call National Fuel immediately.