Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Warm homes are sweet relief

Days of worry end as gas flows again after pipeline blast

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For the first time in three nights, Sharlene Main went to bed on Tuesday with a sense of relief.

And warmth.

"It'll be nice not to worry about if our pipes are going to freeze, or if we have enough blankets, or if the portable heaters... blow a fuse," Main said Tuesday, shortly after heat returned to her home in St. Pierre-Jolys. "It will be a weight lifted off my mind."

The Main family of three had been without heat since the Otterburne gas explosion early Saturday morning.

For the past three days -- like thousands of other Red River Valley residents -- they have made do with a few portable heaters and a lot of blankets.

By mid-afternoon, with Manitoba Hydro employees swarming the town going door to door, the gas lines into homes were running again.

"There's Hydro trucks everywhere," Main said. "I greatly appreciate all the work they did to get this done as fast as they could."

Natural gas was flowing Tuesday to all southeastern Manitoba communities left without it following Saturday's explosion.

TransCanada Pipelines said service was restored to most communities overnight Monday and gas began flowing to the rest by Tuesday afternoon.

Hydro reported late Tuesday that 85 per cent of urban customers had been visited and their gas service confirmed.

Manitoba Hydro was working to connect all commercial customers by the end of Tuesday and planned to connect remaining rural and urban customers by the end of today.

Manitoba Hydro spokesman Scott Powell said the utility's staff were working around the clock to ensure all 3,600 customers had working furnaces and gas-fired appliances.

"Because it's natural gas, we want to make sure the restoration is done properly for everyone," Powell said Tuesday.

"We'll go to every customer that has a natural gas meter. It's a major, major effort. Our staff are doing everything they can to get everybody back on as soon as possible."

Powell said about 200 Hydro workers started going door to door early Tuesday morning.

TransCanada Pipelines said it is continuing to investigate the cause of the fire and is reimbursing people for costs incurred because of the outage.

"Although regular natural gas service has been restored, we are not going anywhere," said Davis Sheremata, a company spokesman, in a statement.

"We encourage you to visit the community information centre in Niverville to talk with TransCanada and Manitoba Hydro staff about updates and to make any expense claims. The community information centre will remain open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. until further notice."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 29, 2014 A3

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