Approximately 1,200 people in the eastern U.P. village of L’anse, Michigan are without natural gas service after a driver collided with a gas line early Friday morning.
According to Jeff Hubbard, emergency manager for Baraga County, a man who had been driving long hours crashed into a Semco Energy gate station at 3:43am, Friday.
"The accident resulted in damage to the gas line, (and) a subsequent fire," Hubbard said. "The driver of the vehicle was taken from the scene and treated at a local hospital."
The name and condition of the driver are unknown, according to Hubbard.
A spokesman for Semco Energy says crews are now working to restore service. Repairs to the gate station servicing L’anse are being made, while other Semco crews are working to shut off gas lines at each of the affected homes and businesses.
“Our crews are right now going to each home and business to turn the gas valves off,” said Tim Lubbers, with Semco Energy. “Once the city gate station is repaired, we will re-pressurize the system, and then we have to go to each individual homes, turn (the gas lines) back on and make sure their appliances are operating correctly.”
“So it is a time-intensive process,” Lubbers said.
Natural gas outages take longer to repair and restore service than electricity outages, according to Lubbers. He says customers may not realize this, since natural gas outages typically aren’t very common.
Lubbers says Semco does not have an official estimate for when service to L’anse may resume, despite reports estimating 2-3 days.
“Our crews are working diligently but it is going to take a while,” Lubbers said.
Weather forecasts predict overnight temperatures in the mid-twenties for the Christmas weekend, but county and village officials have opened warming centers for people affected by the outage.
“A large majority of people use natural gas to heat their homes and businesses,” Hubbard said. “People are using electric space heaters, (and) we’ve opened a warming center at the Baraga high school, and people are urged to go there if they need to get warm."
Hubbard says a nearby hospital and senior center are already equipped with auxiliary heat.