How many homes were affected by the natural gas outage last week and why weren’t owners notified?

Nobody, not even Atmos Energy, knows how many properties were affected by the interruption of natural gas service on Friday, Dec. 2, which cut off pilot lights across mountain area homes south of Angler’s Drive. 

A spokesperson for Atmos Energy said the natural gas company believes around 45 residences were affected, but that number is based on customer service calls. It’s likely there are households who never reached out to their natural gas supplier and instead relit their pilot lights themselves, got help from elsewhere, or still don’t know. 

“I’d say we still don’t know the full effect of it,” said Ben Weaver a co-owner of Central Park Management. 

Weaver said that 10-12 of the properties he manages requested help relighting pilot lights. He said it was mostly fireplaces that needed service because most of the properties he manages use modern water heaters that relight on their own automatically, but there were still four or five that didn’t. 

Friday evening, as Weaver was receiving calls about pilot lights, he said he received a call from someone from Atmos Energy who asked for assistance with a property Weaver’s company no longer managed. At the time of the call, the Atmos employee was unaware the interruption was affecting homes on Weiss Circle, where Weaver’s office and the properties he manages are located.

“The guy was helpful when I talked to him,” Weaver said. “It seemed he was thrown a curveball.”

Atmos Energy’s spokesperson Jennifer Altieri said a typical outage would prompt an automated email, but the interruption on Friday wasn’t considered an outage, so certain protocols weren’t activated. 

“They were doing a routine maintenance,” she said. “And what happened was suddenly they got some levels of low pressure and then it went back up. So, it was very difficult to identify.” 

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Altieri said Atmos received around 20 calls for service on Friday, with fewer each of the following days until arriving at about 45 total. She said property management companies were contacted and technicians from Atmos went door to door in what was perceived as the affected area.

“We are not like an electric company,” Altieri said. “The outage process is much more intense and requires a lot more manpower on the ground.”

She recommends anyone affected by the service interruption to call the Atmos Energy customer service line to get help from a technician. 

An owner of Emberglow, a fireplace servicer, Rachel von Ahn said she received about 50 calls on Friday and Saturday, saying the calls mostly came from people living along Whistler Road. 

“Our biggest concerns are the people that don’t live here that are out of town because you know how cold it’s been here,” she said. “Especially in the Whistler area, a lot of people rely on their fireplace for heat so we’re trying to make those our priority — getting to those people making sure they don’t come back to frozen pipes.” 

According to von Ahn, her company continued to get calls up to Wednesday, Dec. 7 — five days after the interruption. Her company also reached out to clients who she knew were out of town to get them up to speed. 

“In Steamboat, we take care of our neighbors,” she said. “And people have been reaching out to their neighbors that they know are out of town. You know, that’s what we do here.” 

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