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Atmos Energy Will Shut Off Gas Service In Northwest Dallas After Explosion, Evacuations

Bill Zeeble
Several gas leaks have been reported in Northwest Dallas, and one may have led to a house exploding on Española Drive, killing a 12-year-old girl. "

About 2,800 Northwest Dallas residents could be without gas service for up to three weeks while Atmos Energy replaces gas lines and meters.

This comes after a number of gas leaks forced 300 people to evacuate. 

Gas service will be shut off beginning Thursday for the area spanning from Walnut Hill to the north, Webb Chapel Road to the west, West Northwest Highway to the south and Lakemont Drive to the east.

Atmos workers will also be going door-to-door notifying affected residents.

"We will immediately begin a process with more than 120 contract crews to begin to replace every distribution main in the area, every service line in the area. We'll put all new gas meters in. We'll test every customer yard line,” John Paris, president of Atmos Energy’s Mid-Tex Division, said at a press conference early Thursday morning.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says when finished, gas will flow through new pipe made of polyvinyl chloride.

“That is more forgiving in situations like this where there’s movement. There’ll be a hardship on people because they won’t have their stove, they won’t have their heat in their home," Jenkins said. "But Atmos has assured me they’ll work with all of those situations.” 

The company says it will also test pipes, appliances and pick up the cost of replacing gas lines.  

Residents on edge

Angelica Salas didn’t get an evacuation order. But after one was issued for the apartment next door, she left anyway.

“I am concerned whether or not they’re checking everything the way they should check. And for them to call it a safe zone if it’s really...when will it really be a safe zone?"

Residents have been wondering that all week. Several gas leaks have been reported, and one may have led to a house exploding on Española Drive, killing a 12-year-old girl. Neighbors say they’ve been smelling gas for weeks.

Atmos points to a potential explanation of the leaks. Record rainfall and unusual geology in the neighborhood moved the old, underground steel pipes. 

Even as the pipes in the neighborhood get replaced, the National Transportation Safety Board, which oversees pipelines, is investigating.

A preliminary report is due in a month, but the NTSB says the final version may take another 18 months.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.