ELYRIA — About 2,500 Eastern Heights residents are without gas and Elyria Schools canceled classes for today after an emergency shutoff by Columbia Gas on Thursday.
Service, which was shut off about 4:45 p.m., is expected to be off for 24 to 48 hours. The shutoff was caused by an influx of air into the system, according to Columbia Gas communication manager Bill Loomer.
“Out of precaution we had to shut down the system to approximately 2,500 customers all in the Eastern Heights section of Elyria,” he said. “We did that so we can safely try and figure out why the air got introduced into the system, purge it and then get customers relit.”
He said the situation is safe, with crews working through the night visiting homes to manually shut off service at each meter. Once repairs are made, crews will return to each home to restore service, do a safety check and relight appliances.
There were more than 120 Columbia Gas technicians from across the state making their way through the neighborhood Thursday night, with that number expected to grow slightly by this morning. According to a news release, as of 9 p.m. Thursday crews were working to restore service to about 2,100 customers in the area.
Elyria Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said the area affected was roughly between South Abbe Road, to Stanford Avenue, to the railroad tracks near Ridge Tool, to the Black River.
Mayor Holly Brinda was optimistic that the utility would be restored soon and said the city set up a shelter at East Recreation Center with the American Red Cross for those affected.
“I’m just hopeful that we’ll be resolved as soon as possible, because we know it’s a major inconvenience,” she said. “And it can be a health and safety issue, too, for some of our older residents obviously who might depend on their environment for their health.”
While going without gas is a major inconvenience, Brinda said it helped that it was not electric service — and that the weather was supposed to be on the warmer side. A high of 42 is forecast for today, 49 Saturday and 56 Sunday, with lows in the 30s to 40s.
Assistant Fire Chief Joe Pronesti said there was no immediate danger and the department was working with the county’s Emergency Management Agency to get transportation for elderly or disabled to a shelter. For transportation assistance, call 284-0357.
He cautioned affected residents against using space heaters or other appliances to stay warm, citing potential fire hazards.
Even with the shelter set up at East Recreation Center, many residents chose to stay at home, piling on blankets as temperatures in their homes slowly dropped. Lorain County EMA later announced the shelter was moved to Eastern Heights Middle School, 528 Garford Ave., Elyria, and asked that people coming for shelter enter from Prospect Street.
Charity Stratton, who lives in the 300 block of Park Avenue, said she was spending the evening under her 170-pound St. Bernard, Bruce. About 9:30 p.m. Thursday, her home was a “balmy” 58 degrees, she said.
“We have plenty of family and friends that have offered a place, but my husband has to be up at 5 a.m. for work and he is currently snuggled up in my son’s bed under a heap of blankets and my son is bundled in the recliner playing ‘Fortnite’ with his friend, and we’ll just stick it out for tonight and see what tomorrow brings.”
Elyria Schools are closed today. In a Facebook post, the district cited the interruption in service affecting the high school, which houses the central kitchen providing food to all the schools in the district. Stratton said her son, 11-year-old Chance Stratton, was enjoying staying up late playing video games and she planned to binge Netflix while waiting for gas service to be restored.
Prior to the outage, she said, she’d had minestrone soup on the stove for the past five hours and a chocolate cake baking — finishing both shortly before service was cut. Warming up with piping hot soup and a fresh cake, her family wasn’t too worried about the outage. While her husband, Erik Stratton, may have a cold shower Friday morning, she said it wasn’t the end of the world.
“I’m not going to worry myself in the details,” she said. “If I get another notification that says ‘Get out of your house’ I’m going to take my dog and my people and run, but other than that we’re in for the night.”
Columbia Gas said it will reimburse residents for reasonable hotel or meal expenses incurred by the outage, with receipts.
For hotel information, email email@example.com. For expenses, call (800) 915-9161.
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