Storm mode for gas crews
When we think of winter storms our first thoughts are usually of our electric linemen who battle the elements to restore power when snow, sleet and freezing rain impact our system. What we may not consider is that our gas operations teams also go into “storm mode” during these times – especially in coastal communities.
That’s because the risk of flooding in these areas pose significant threats to our gas distribution systems. Flooding can wreak some serious hazard – it can cause the ground to shift and pipes to break, water can infiltrate the system, and customer gas meters can become submerged.
All of these scenarios require that our gas crews stand at the ready to respond in the case of an emergency. In some areas of Massachusetts, we pre-deploy gas crews to certain municipalities because flooding and road closures can isolate them. This is true in the peninsula areas of Nahant, Marblehead and Gloucester – which have one road in and one road out. If a road closure due to flooding occurs, it would mean those communities would be without immediate emergency response.
To plan ahead and to be prepared, our gas crews work with local municipal fire and police officials in those coastal towns. CMS and gas field operations teams, along with digging equipment, head out to those areas before the storm hits and stay there for the duration of the storm. If assistance is needed, they’re on site and ready to go. “There’s a certain comfort level from the towns knowing that we’re there,” said lead supervisor Bill Moszka.
Mike Snow, a supervisor based out of Beverly, is one of those employees who hunkered down in a coastal town during a storm. “It can get pretty interesting,” he said. While the teams spend much of their time listening to radios with police and fire personnel, they also head out to inspect critical valves and dead-end feeds that are not looped into the system to make sure the areas around them are clear. The teams often battle high winds and ocean water crashing over the roads to do this work.
So the next time you gear up for your own storm assignment– don’t forget the important role that our gas crews play in our emergency preparedness. They are out there weathering the storm just like our electric teams to ensure the safety and reliability of our systems.