- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Dozens of Northwest residents remained without heat and hot water for a fifth straight day yesterday amid snow and icy rain as gas company crews continued to pump water from a ruptured gas main.

Water from the main break near Sherman Avenue and Columbia Road got into a gas line Friday, forcing the utility to stop service to about 350 homes and businesses, said Washington Gas spokesman Tim Sargeant.

Service had been restored yesterday to all but 70 customers in the Shaw neighborhood who lost service when water seeped into the gas main, Mr. Sargeant said.

He said crews had pumped about 10,000 gallons of water from the gas line and water remaining in the line must be pumped out before repairs can be made.

“I’ve lived in Shaw all my life and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Charles Richardson, 70, who has been without heat at his residence in the 900 block of R Street since Friday.

His sister, unable to bear the brisk indoor temperature, sought refuge at her daughter’s house while Mr. Richardson toughed it out.

“I haven’t been anywhere since I [lost service]. My niece tried to get me to go to her house this weekend; different friends tried to get me to come over. I told them I had to stay right here, just in case the repair workers come,” he said.

Washington Gas was still in the neighborhood yesterday, trying to contact residents, and workers were to remain in the neighborhood until everyone is back online.

The outage area includes Westminster Street to the north, R Street to the south, 10th Street to the west and Seventh Street to the east.

The Red Cross set up warming stations at Shaw Elementary School, Harriet Tubman Elementary School and Garrison Elementary School, Mr. Sargeant said.

“I’ve just recently had a stroke. I missed a speech therapy class to catch the workers when they got here,” Mr. Richardson said.

But Mr. Richardson still managed to miss them, as he discovered upon opening his front door yesterday and seeing a notice left by the workers.

“I went to the store, and that was only for a minute. I opened the door and saw the note stuffed in the [door knocker]. I thought it was junk or some advertisement for something,” he said.

Once he realized that he missed his turn, he hurried over to Shaw Elementary School, where Washington Gas had set up a makeshift control center.

“I went and got them,” Mr. Richardson said of the workers. “The workers were on their lunch break, but I wasn’t going to wait again.”

Since Friday, Mr. Richardson said he had been sleeping on an inflatable mattress on the floor in his kitchen, surrounded by two small space heaters.

“It was the smallest room in the house, so I could keep the heat in with me,” Mr. Richardson said. “Those little heaters weren’t going to heat any of these other rooms.”

In Poolesville, nine of about 1,250 customers remained without service, Mr. Sargeant said. Those customers have not been available to let Washington Gas workers into their homes to restore service and re-light the pilot lights.

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