National Grid finishes first step in restoring gas to Newport

A glimmer of hope for the thousands of customers affected by the natural gas outage on Aquidneck Island on Friday, as National Grid announced they finally finished shutting off the gas at all homes and businesses hit.

Newport Public Schools announced Friday that restorations were complete at Pell Elementary School, Rogers High School and Newport Area Career and Tech Center and they will be reopening on Monday along with pre-K Pell Annex at JFK School.

Thompson Middle School is still being addressed and school officials will provide an update on Sunday regarding whether the school will be open Monday.

National Grid said the final homes were shutoff at around 11:45 a.m. Friday.

Acting President of National Grid Terence Sobolewski said that technicians were now waiting for the system to re-pressurize and stabilize before workers can start entering homes and turning the gas back on.

“We have to be very deliberate and very specific about making sure we do this in exactly the right way to protect the safety of our customers,” Sobolewski said. “It’s a very large and complex system”

It’s a glimmer of hope for residents and business owners like Joanne Carlson of Jo’s American Bistro in Newport. 

She said because of the outage her 40 employees were out of work this week.

“We keep canceling reservations day by day,” Carlson said. “It’s stressful for my staff. We can’t give them information as to when they’re going to come back to work.”

But even though it’s the fifth day being without gas and her restaurant is still shutdown, she said she’s willing to wait it out so everyone is safe.

“Would rather err on the side of safety than to do something where someone gets hurt,” Carlson said.

Governor Gina Raimondo said the outage is being investigated, and the state will be requesting emergency funds from the federal government. However, she said the outage speaks to a bigger problem facing New England.

“The infrastructure is old and it is another reminder of the fact that we need to continue to have serious discussions,” she said. 

The relighting process is expected to begin either Friday night or Saturday. Technicians will have to go door to door to manually turn on all gas and appliances.

The process should last about 45 minutes for each home. National Grid will be sending automated phone calls to customers letting them know when technicians will be in the neighborhood.

Sobolewski said National Grid will begin the relighting by priority, beginning with schools that are expected to open again on Monday, and shelters.

National Grid is also warning the public of people posing as technicians that are asking for account information. They said not to give that information to anyone unless they have a National Grid ID.

Officials with the company are also telling everyone to not try and restore the gas on your own.

It will be several days before all customers’ gas has been restored.

If you smell gas inside or outside during the re-pressurization and restoration process you’re asked to contact the National Grid gas emergency line at 1-800-640-1595.