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Vulnerable gas pipes along Gulf Coast avoided direct hit from Gordon


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Vulnerable gas pipes along Gulf Coast avoided direct hit from Gordon

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Tropical Storm Gordon made landfall late Sept. 4 just west of the Alabama-Mississippi border.

Source: Associated Press

Major gas utilities near the Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana coastlines reported no disruptions to service in the wake of Tropical Storm Gordon, which avoided a direct hit on some of the region's more vulnerable pipes.

Michelle Bourg, director of gas distribution for Entergy Louisiana LLC and Entergy New Orleans LLC, said the company was thankful that the storm had not directly struck its service territory. In New Orleans, the Entergy Corp. subsidiary still has more than 150 miles of low-pressure pipe, which is especially susceptible to water infiltration.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 flooded Entergy New Orleans' gas pipes, and the utility has been working with regulators on replacing the aging, mostly cast iron lines in the city for almost a decade. More modern materials allow the company to operate its system at a higher pressure, which helps keep water out.

The company's gas infrastructure rebuild program replaced about 384 miles of low-pressure pipe with modern, high-pressure piping. Entergy, which serves about 200,000 customers in Louisiana, spent about $164 million on the project over 2007 to 2017.

Since program ended, Entergy New Orleans has spent roughly $25 million on targeted low-pressure replacement in the city and asked for permission from the New Orleans City Council to keep working on upgrading the system through 2027. About 150 miles, or 9%, of the New Orleans gas system is operating at a low pressure, according to the company.

"Low pressure is just susceptible to flooding inundations [and] we want to have a system that's got as much storm hardening as we can [have]," Bourg said Sept. 5.

With ongoing work around the city, including both upgrade projects and normal maintenance, Entergy took steps to shore up its equipment and work sites in the event Tropical Storm Gordon struck the city, Bourg said.

"We were expecting and preparing for what was to be a high-tropical-storm-force wind, low-hurricane-force winds," Bourg said. "The city really had a glancing blow at best ... but we were ready."

The storm's center hit just west of the Alabama-Mississippi border at 10:30 p.m. CT on Sept. 4. The National Hurricane Center reported maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and issued warnings of life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall.

Spire Inc., which serves about 500,000 customers in Alabama and Mississippi, said it also readied itself for Gordon, but its infrastructure was not impacted by the storm.

"Our teams prepared for Tropical Storm Gordon. ... We ensured that additional resources could quickly mobilize as needed," Spire spokeswoman Jenny Gobble said Sept. 5. "However, as it made landfall, Gordon had little impact on Spire territories."

CenterPoint Energy Inc.'s service territory covers parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, including areas along Mississippi's coast, and also did not experience service disruptions, a company spokeswoman said.