Progress made in Ashland gas outage, full restoration by Saturday

ASHLAND, Ore.– Residents in Ashland are starting to see hot water and heat return to their homes as Avista continues to make progress restoring service after a natural gas outage.

The outage, which has affected some 4,800 homes and businesses, is now at the end of its fourth day. But some residents will still have to wait.

Avista says that it expects to have every affected customer back up and running by Saturday night yet some residents hope Avista will make changes that won’t let this happen again.

“This is a pretty big outage for us,” said Brian Taylor, gas operations manager for Avista’s Medford area.

With a majority of the 4,800 customers getting hot water, heat and stoves returned to them, there’s a sense of relief.

“Our range top was out and our gas fireplace was out but the hot water was really our main issue so we’re happy that’s back on and can’t wait to take a shower,” said Bill Wertz, an affected resident.

A total of 55 crews – some from other companies, others from out of state – continue to work in Ashland on relighting every house. As of Friday afternoon, 75 percent of those affected by the outage had gas back up and running.

Those areas would be in Zone 3 and portions of Zone 4 in an outage zone map provided by Avista. However, it’s estimated there are about 900 homes in Zone 4 that might have to wait till Saturday to receive service.

“The messaging that we’re sticking with is tomorrow we’d have all the customers back on besides the ‘can’t gain entries,'” said Taylor. Those “can’t gain entries” are homes where the homeowner might not have been home for whatever outlying reason. “Hoping to have some strong momentum like we’ve had this morning and continue working through that tonight.”

Taylor says for those that were in zones that have already been helped but did not receive a relighting can call Avista and will be put on a prioirty list.

Many residents NBC5 News spoke with said they were frustrated with Avista’s communication though. Even those who had their gas turned back on still were left in the dark.

“We didn’t want to miss someone when they came so we were kind of waiting around and waiting around,” said Wertz. “At first they said it would be I think by 10 o’clock on Wednesday and then they said maybe by the end of the day Thursday.”

Avista even admits it was a slow start.

“We had to drop the whole system down and shut everybody’s meter off at the actual residence and now we’re bringing it back on,” said Taylor. “So we had a slow couple first days to get ready but now we’re in full relight mode.”

Avista says it plans to reevaluate its process and see where it can improve to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Residents hope for the same.

“It was an inconvenience and you don’t like for those things to happen but it’s understandable so no, I’m not angry,” said Wertz. “Right now I’m just happy to think about taking that shower.”

The company is still investigating what factor caused the outage. In its initial report, it said that after some routine valve maintenance the valve was left partially closed.

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