Published: Nov 12, 2010 11:53 PM EST
Updated: Nov 12, 2010 6:36 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Around 2 p.m. Thursday, November 11, a heavy-equipment contractor damaged an eight-inch natural gas line in Ft. Myers, causing a major break in the southwest Florida system. This resulted in a loss of natural gas service to about 7,000 customers in Lee and Collier counties.

The line has been repaired, but restoration will be a lengthy process. Safety is our No. 1 priority while we work to restore service.

About 50 additional support workers are in Ft. Myers. More support personnel from around the state are on their way to help restore customers. Crews will be working into the evening hours as long as safe conditions exist. The initial phases of restoration have begun, and service will be restored to some customers by the end of Friday. However, total restoration is expected to take up to a week.

The restoration sequence includes three key steps:

· First, each customer’s gas service is shut off and locked down (physically turned off and locked) by a representative of Peoples Gas as a safety precaution and as required by federal and state regulations.

· Then, gas mains will be re-pressurized to the appropriate level and inspected.

· Next, Peoples Gas crews will visit each customer premise and ensure natural gas service is restored, pilot lights will be re-lit and safety checks will be completed by a representative of Peoples Gas. Peoples Gas is working to restore all customers as quickly as possible.

Customers should not turn off their gas supply at the main meter. Only emergency personnel or utility personnel should turn the valve on or off. A customer may turn off the gas for individual appliances at the appliance valve near each unit but it is not necessary.