Officials urge property owners to keep gas meters clear
Steamboat Springs — A big snow year has wreaked havoc on a large number of natural gas lines in recent weeks, and officials are urging residents to keep their meters accessible.
Atmos Energy Operations Supervisor Don Crane and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Mel Stewart said Wednesday there have been more gas leaks than usual due to the heavy snow.
Crane said the biggest problem they have seen is large snow loads on roofs either falling onto meters or being shoveled onto meters.
“The loads are so great that they can damage the gas meters,” Crane said.
He said property owners need to keep their gas and electrical meters clear and accessible, as failing to do so can be dangerous. During a structure fire, turning off the gas is one of the first things firefighters or Atmos employees do, but that becomes difficult when the meters are covered by up to eight feet of snow.
“It puts the property owner, the firefighter and my employees at risk,” Crane said.
An explosion Feb. 16 at a duplex on Cherry Drive in Steamboat illustrated just how dangerous the situation can be.
Stewart said fire rescue personnel suspect snow had been falling from the roof and covering the meter. Gas could have been leaking for some time before it finally found an ignition source that sparked the fire. Stewart said the ignition source could have been a pilot light from a gas stove in the kitchen.
No one was injured in the fire.
Stewart said the number of gas leaks vary from year to year, depending on the weather. The freeze-thaw cycle can pull gas meters away from the building.
Crane said there have also been leaks involving at least two commercial properties that have gas pipes going to the roof. The snow loads have bent pipes and cracked fittings.
Atmos has worked to inform property owners about the issues through newspaper and radio advertising. The company has also placed tags on doors and passed out fliers.
Atmos plans to begin distributing quarter-sized stickers to property owners to be placed above gas meters. This will allow Atmos and firefighters to locate meters in case they are covered in snow.
Atmos offers the following tips.
• Carefully hand dig or use a broom to remove snow and ice from around gas meters.
• Keep appliance vents clear to prevent carbon monoxide build up.
• Do not allow heavy snow to accumulate on a roof that is directly above a gas meter.
• If using snow and ice removal equipment on roofs, exercise extreme caution while diverting it away from the meter.
• Those who smell natural gas should call 911 or Atmos at 1-866-322-8667.
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