Most expected to receive service this evening

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2004

DEMOPOLIS &045;&045; If you woke up to a cold bath or a sputtering heater Thursday morning, it could have been worse.

Just ask Jason Windham.

Shortly after 7 a.m. Thursday, a valve in the natural gas lines in Demopolis malfunctioned, virtually stopping all gas output to more than 1,000 Alagasco customers. For most, that meant a chilly bath. For Windham, it meant an entire loss at work.

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Maybe even more frustrating for Windham was that his business is about 30 paces from the Alagasco parking lot, where dozens of trucks from around the state came to help solve the problem. Most of the day, Windham watched helplessly. He also made a few trips across the parking lot.

According to Susan Delenne, spokeswoman for Alagasco, trash within the gas lines apparently caused a critical valve to malfunction.

It took Alagasco workers until 3 p.m. Thursday to fix the actual valve problem, but that was just the start of a process that may leave 1,050 customers without natural gas until 5 p.m. today. Those affected, according to Delenne, are customers who live north of U.S. Highway 80 and east of the river.

Once the valve was replaced, workers from more than 40 other communities around the state began the process of turning off the gas for all the customers affected.

The biggest problem &045;&045; for customers, especially &045;&045; is that Alagasco will have to manually reactivate gas to every customer in the city. One at a time.

Gas company workers began that process shortly after 3 p.m. on Thursday. After the gas has been turned off, and the valve has been tested, then trucks will be disbursed throughout the city to begin turning on the gas for those who lost service.

Delaying the process even further, Delenne said, is that someone will have to be home to let the Alagasco employees in.

The gas problem Demopolis faced yesterday and most of today is not an unusual occurrence for Alagasco. The only difference, Delenne said, is that a valve malfunction doesn’t usually affect so many people.

According to Delenne, there are any number of ways trash could have gotten into the gas lines. The most likely answer, she said, is that most of the gas lines in Demopolis were replaced over the summer.

Delenne also said that Alagasco knows exactly which customers are without service and there’s no reason to call the office. However, if gas isn’t restored by Saturday, that’s when customers should call the Demopolis office.