Thousands of households in Stannington, Sheffield, have gone without gas for three nights after a flood cut off vast numbers of homes and businesses from the network. Cadent, a gas company, did warn that the problem would take “a number of days” to fix, adding that engineers and customer support teams are going from door to door to find the affected properties. To resolve the issue, the firm faces a “huge challenge” as it needs to get rid of all the water outside the gas mains.
Cadent said in a statement on Monday: “This evening we will continue knocking on doors and pumping out water until 11pm. With the extra water tankers we brought in, we’ve pumped more than 400,000 litres of water out of the gas network and there’s still more water to pump out. This is a huge challenge, and we will continue to visit properties in the morning.
“We’re working closely with our colleagues at Northern Powergrid. We want to make sure you are not without gas and electricity at the same time, so your help would be appreciated. We understand how challenging the current situation is but at this time the electricity network is at risk of overloading because of extra appliances being used.”
The company is advising residents to try and limit their energy use, suggesting that they should only use electricity when it is really needed. They are also urging locals not to use too many items all at the same time to avoid the prospect of full-blown power outages.
A Cadent spokesperson added: “Remember to turn lights off when you’re not using them or when you leave a room. Please don’t leave computers, games consoles or TVs on standby. Northern Powergrid are continuing to monitor the load on the network and have ask that any heaters that are not required are switched off, this will avoid the risk of a power outage in the area.”
The team has reportedly been able to get rid of 400,000 litres of water so far, but the pipe remains water-logged and must be emptied before repairs are made.
Lucy Ashton, a political reporter for BBC Sheffield, told BBC Radio Sheffield: “They are now saying they think it might be up to 2,000 homes which are affected. It is still a work in progress.
“They are still trying to get to grips with how many residents, but they say that the original figure of 1,000 looks as though it has now doubled. They are also struggling to really give a timescale. They think that for the underground gas pipe, it could be another two to three days before that’s fixed.”
Lib Dem Councillor for Stannington Penny Baker, who is also the deputy chair of the housing policy committee on Sheffield City Council, said that while the situation is tough, residents have been showing “remarkable” levels of resilience, but said that the situation is “very worrying”.
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She told BBC Radio Sheffield: “They are remarkable. They are grateful for any help and support that they get. They are going out there and helping the neighbours…It is a fabulous community spirit, but it is worrying. It is really worrying.
“It is basically kitchens that are getting impacted…and at this time of year, in these temperatures and the cold snap coming up.”
This comes as weather forecasters predict that temperatures set to plunge to -5C in certain parts of the UK. The first cold spell of winter will hit Northern Ireland later this week, with sub-zero temperatures at night and wintry showers expected to come.
The Met Office has now issued a Level 3 amber alert for cold weather for England – the second highest level – from Wednesday until Monday next week.
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But while the Stannington event has left homes without gas purely due to an accident, it could be a taste of things to come as National Grid has warned the UK could experience planned rolling blackouts in January and February.
Under its “unlikely worst-case scenario” in its Winter Outlook, the energy supplier warns that areas may be subjected to three-hour blackouts if Britain can’t shore up enough energy imports from Europe this winter.
Back in October, National Grid’s chief executive John Pettigrew said that the firm could be forced to take action on “really, really cold” evenings at the coldest time of year. It may involve planned power cuts between 4pm and 7pm on weekdays in a bid to conserve energy.
But rather than hitting the entire country at once, it would “roll” the power outages across the UK, with different areas following local timetables. However rolling blackouts were among the most “extreme” proposals in the company’s Winter Outlook, with less severe options including a voluntary incentive scheme for customers.