Residents could be without gas through Saturday in southeast Houston

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Thousands of people in southeast Houston spent the past several hours dealing with a natural gas outage, and some may still be dealing with it through Saturday, according to CenterPoint Energy.

At its peak, the outage affected about 2,500 customers between Highway 288 and Cullen, north and south of Beltway 8. It began Thursday evening.

More than 100 CenterPoint workers set up a temporary command center at a Jack in the Box off Cullen. They're coordinating their visits to the areas affected. Around 10pm, CenterPoint Energy said that about half its customers who lost service now have it back. That number would be higher if more people were home when crews came by to turn the power on.

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"We realize it's cold outside. We realize it's an inconvenience," CenterPoint spokeswoman Alicia Dixon said. "It is a time-consuming process because we physically have to go to each individual meter."

Dixon said each affected home or business has to be visited twice, once to make sure everything's off and not leaking. Then another visit is required to turn service back on and check pilot lights.

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CenterPoint is working to restore gas to thousands of Houstonians left out in the cold.

Greg Hardmon lives not far from the command post. He said the cold weather couldn't be happening at a less convenient time.

"No hot water at all. No heat. At one point, the thermostat was kicking out cold air so we had to cut it off," he said.

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While ABC13 was talking with Greg, his gas service was restored. He knows he's one of the lucky ones. For many others, it could be as late as Saturday night before they have heat and got water again, CenterPoint said.

The company said customers should turn off all appliances, even if they're still getting a trickle of gas.

"Turn off that log. Turn off that gas stove if you were cooking breakfast just as a precaution," Dixon said.

She said you don't want your home filling with gas once service is restored. Dixon also warns against trying to investigate or repair the issue yourself -- wait for the pros.

"Don't even risk it," she said. "If they smell natural gas, they really need to leave immediately and call CenterPoint Energy and 911."

In the case of a large outage, there's no need to call the gas company, unless you detect that distinct odor, she said.

"That's why we odorize the gas, so customers can smell even the smallest amount."

Getting the gas back on has been a tedious because crews have to go every single individual meter. Here are a few things to know. If your service is still off and you're home, CenterPoint expects to get you up and running Friday night. If you're not home when they come to your house, a spokesperson said you can call when you get home and crews are on standby to come to you. They expect everyone else to be back on Saturday.

If you smell natural gas, you should leave your home and call CenterPoint Energy at 1-800-752-8036. The company is investigating the cause of the outage.
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