Long Beach Flooding Could Trigger Sensors that Turn off Gas

The City Council approved a storm hardening project, which will start with an agreement to add wireless router systems on 11 city light poles. The agreement pays the city $270 per pole, with no charge to the city.

by John Asbury, Newsday / July 8, 2019
A driver plows through a flooded portion of Del Amo Boulevard during a heavy thunder and hail storm in Long Beach, Calif., on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. The first day of spring looked a lot like winter in Southern California, as yet another storm dumped heavy rain that flooded streets and briefly shut down highways. AP/Scott Varley

(TNS) — National Grid will install sensors in Long Beach, Calif., that will allow the gas company to shut off natural gas service to individual homes during cases of flooding.

The Long Beach City Council approved the storm hardening project last week, which will start with an agreement to add wireless router systems on 11 of the city’s light poles. The licensing agreement pays the city $270 per pole, with no charge to the city.

“Sending a small signal would eventually shut off natural gas to individual homes and preserve gas service to the rest of the city,” Long Beach Assistant Corporation Counsel Greg Kalnitsky said. “This can confine the effects of flooding to specific areas to avoid a complete shutdown.”

National Grid serves 9,500 homes and businesses in Long Beach and all lie in flood zones designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Grid senior counsel Ben Weisel said.

Flooding during storms such as superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene caused extensive damage to National Grid equipment and pipes. Flooding can cause life-threatening danger when water gets into gas distribution lines and exposed pilot lights, Weisel said.

National Grid had to shut off gas service to entire neighborhoods or streets during previous flooding, but it now plans to install automatic gas shut-off valves at homes that would be triggered by more than one foot of standing water.

“If a Sandy-like event happens tomorrow, entire neighborhoods could lose gas service,” Weisel said. “If this is completed, we would only have to go by house-by-house shutoff.”

National Grid officials said storm corrosion in pipes can take years to repair.

The new shut-off valves would allow the company to turn off gas remotely from their headquarters during extreme weather events, reports of gas odors or needed repairs.

The sensors will generally remain off but can be activated using a frequency equivalent to a cell phone call.

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