Restoring heat in frigid R.I. could take a week or more

Source: By Steven Senne, Associated Press • Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2019

National Grid began the painstaking process yesterday of going door to door to restore natural gas service to about 7,000 Rhode Island customers who were without heat on a day when temperatures weren’t expected to rise above freezing.

The effort in Newport and Middletown could take a week or more, Tim Horan, president of the utility in Rhode Island, said at a morning news conference with Gov. Gina Raimondo (D). The pair held a second news conference in the evening, during which Horan suffered a medical emergency at the podium and was taken to a hospital. National Grid spokesman Ted Kresse tweeted about two hours after the incident that Horan is doing well and should be released from the hospital.

The utility suspended service Monday following a potentially dangerous loss of pressure caused by a supplier’s faulty valve. In such cases, there can be explosions as pressure is restored, but National Grid shut down service out of an “abundance of caution.”

An overpressurization issue was blamed for multiple explosions, fires and one death in the Lawrence, Mass., area in the fall. Horan said that the current situation was different, and that “the integrity of our system is safe and intact.”

“We know this situation has created a huge challenge for everyone,” he said.

Although temperatures are expected to rise to near 50 degrees Fahrenheit later this week, Raimondo is urging residents to find alternative accommodations. She declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to get people without heat to somewhere warm.

National Grid said it would reimburse affected customers for hotel stays.

Utility technicians are going door to door to restore gas service. They will be accompanied by locksmiths and police officers in case they need to get into an unoccupied home. — Steven Senne, Associated Press