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Gas distribution companies ready for Hurricane Matthew impacts

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Gas distribution companies ready for Hurricane Matthew impacts

With HurricaneMatthew bearing down on the southeastern U.S., gas utilities havecrews at the ready to manage possible damage to their systems.

Southern Co.Gas has about a hundred crews staged and additional resources atthe ready to manage the hurricane's possible impacts, spokeswoman Kristie SwinkBenson said Oct. 7. The company also has LNG tankers and vaporization unitsready to support in the event of a natural gas outage, she said.

"Obviously, our first priority is safety — safety forour people, our pipelines and the public. We will continue to monitor the storm'sdevelopment over the weekend and through next week," Benson said. "We'vestaged our crews in cities close by, and we have crews that are prepared torespond in Florida and Georgia once the storm has passed through and damage[is] assessed in our territories."

Lower-pressure gas pipes — especially those in low-lyingareas — are susceptible to water infiltration, which can be an issue withhurricanes because of heavy rains and storm surges. This was among gas utilities faced in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and has been the focusof many system-hardening efforts since then to improve the of local distribution companynetworks.

Southern Co. Gas' service territory includes 's 1.5million customers in Georgia, Florida City Gas's 107,000 customers in southernand eastern Florida, and VirginiaNatural Gas Inc.'s roughly 300,000 customers in southeast Virginia.

Although Virginia may not be in Hurricane Matthew's path,Benson said the Southern Co.subsidiary is still closely tracking storm information for that area.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as oflate morning Oct. 7 had hurricane warnings listed for Florida, Georgia, SouthCarolina and the southern coast of North Carolina, with a tropical stormwarning in place for the remainder of North Carolina's coast. Theadministration was not expecting the brunt of the storm to hit Virginia.

Katrina Goggins, spokeswoman for ,said gas lines are typically not impacted to the degree that are, but shesaid the gas business was still readying itself for the storm.

"We definitely have a number of crews to respond toelectric [outages], and we have crews to respond to gas as well," Gogginssaid Oct. 7. "We feel prepared."

The SCANACorp. subsidiary and FloridaPublic Utilities Co. have been trying to get the word out tocustomers in advance of the storm that nonemployees should not attempt to shutoff their gas meters or, in the event of an outage, relight pilot lights.

"Florida Public Utilities … does not plan tointentionally disable gas service," the Chesapeake Utilities Corp. subsidiary said in bulletinsin advance of the storm. "However, depending on the severity of the storm,residents and businesses may experience an interruption of gas service. … Ourcrews will remain in the area, poised and ready to assess system outages andrestore service once it is deemed safe to do so."