Nebraska has experienced a number of weather-related issues this spring. Whether you've been affected by blizzards or flooding, we want to remind you about important natural gas safety information.
Natural gas safety during winter storms
Before you start to clear snow from driveways and alleys with skid steers or motorized plows or snowblowers, don’t forget that there are meters in the alleys and easements that may be covered. Use care, find and mark the gas meter so it won’t get ran into or broken off.
Snow and ice buildup on your natural gas meter can create a safety hazard and even cut off the flow of natural gas to your heating equipment and appliances. To avoid trouble, gently remove snow and ice from on and around the meter with your hands or a broom.
Gas meters and regulators are durable and designed with the weather in mind, but a coating of ice or snow could cause a loss of service and become a critical safety issue. If at all possible, remove the snow before it has a chance to freeze.
Watch the video below for more information about how to keep your meter clear and safe.
When the snow begins to melt from the rooftops water can drain directly on to a meter and encapsulate the entire meter and regulator with ice. When that happens it can affect the operation of the meter, which can either kill the gas flow to the home or even worse -- affect your piping system and gas-burning appliances, which may lead to dangerous situations and costly repairs.
Natural gas safety during flooding
Numerous communities in Nebraska served by Black Hills Energy are experiencing flooding. Safety is always our first priority.
Flooding presents the risk of natural gas leaks when equipment or appliances are submerged and pilot lights go out. We're prepared to temporarily shut off natural gas service if necessary to ensure the safety of our customers and communities.
“Safety is always our first concern, and we will turn off the natural gas at locations in a flood’s path to protect our customers."
Follow these important safety reminders
- If you have concerns with water coming in your home or basement, or if you're evacuating, call our emergency line at 800-694-8989 to have your gas service shut off.
- If you smell natural gas, get everyone out of the building or area immediately. Don’t touch any electrical switches or raise any windows on the way out. Doing so can create a spark of static electricity that could ignite a gas leak. Don’t use a phone within the immediate location – use a neighbor’s phone or a cell phone safely away from the building or area to call 911 or our emergency line at 800-694-8989.
- If it appears flood waters may have reached the natural gas meter or the meter has been impacted in anyway by flood waters, customers need to contact Black Hills Energy’s emergency response line at 800-694-8989.
- Floodwaters carry silt and other contaminants that could damage air conditioners, natural gas meters and appliances, including water heaters and furnaces. When returning to a home or business once floodwaters recede, call Black Hills Energy to have gas service restored. We'll inspect the metering equipment prior to restoring gas service. It's also a good idea to call an appliance repair professional to inspect natural gas appliances.
Tips to follow when returning home following a flood
After floodwaters recede, there is still plenty of danger and risk to be aware of. Here are some important points about starting up appliances that have been submerged in water.
- Newer, high-efficiency appliances, including on-demand water heaters and furnaces, rely on flame-sensing technology to shut off the appliance’s gas valve when gas fails to ignite during operation.
- If an appliance is submerged, the appliance is still receiving power and is attempting to function; water can infiltrate the gas piping in the home through the burners when the gas valve opens temporarily in an attempt to operate.
- A flooded appliance will not fire, the valve will shut and the startup sequence will repeat itself until the appliance’s safety features send it into “lock-out” mode or until the appliance is powered off.
- This scenario allows for water to enter the appliance as well as the piping in your home and Black Hills Energy-owned metering equipment and service lines.
- The effects of this can be exacerbated by systems where gas service has been shut off as a result of the diminished pressure in the natural gas system.