Sunday, October 08, 2000

Many still lack heat

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — On a regular Saturday, employees of the Brighton Center social service agency at Eighth Street and Central Avenue would be enjoying their time off with their families and friends.

        But this was no normal Saturday — not with nearly 5,000 Cinergy customers without natural gas for furnaces, hot water and stoves at a time when the first true cold snap made its way into the Tristate, dropping temperatures to near freezing.

        Brighton family support coordinator Jennifer Griola estimated that the staff has distributed food and blankets to nearly 400 families since Thursday, when a rupture in an 8-inch gas line under the Newport Shopping Center parking lot interrupted service.

        More than 200 workers, from Cinergy, Dayton Power & Light and private contractors, were working Saturday to restore gas, officials said. By midnight Saturday, about 1,000 customers had their service again, said Dave Woodburn, Cinergy spokesman. The hardest-hit area was west of York Street to the Licking River, he said.

        “We have repressurized all the affected areas,” Mr. Woodburn said Saturday. “And for those whose inside gas line has not been damaged — is clear of sand and water — gas could be restored on or before Monday. If there is damage, the line will need to be inspected by a heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor, assigned by us, before gas can be restored.”

        Because of this, some customers may not get their natural gas back until Wednesday, he added.

        “They told me Thursday,” said Newport resident Christine Sandlin.

        At Brighton Center on Saturday to beef up her supply of blankets, the mother of 7- and 4-year-old boys said she is concerned about what the cold could do to her youngest son.

        Temperatures overnight Saturday and early today were expected to dip into the 30s. Similar low temperatures are expected tonight.

        “He has asthma,” she said, “and cold (weather) makes it worse. He's on a breathing machine, and I have to make sure he's warm enough so he doesn't have an attack.”

        She said the boys' father, who lives on east Second Street and was unaffected by the gas line break, has been giving the children baths at his home.

        She said she has also been helped by friends who have allowed her to use their microwave to heat food.

        Tynesha Tevis of Brighton Street took her 2-year-old daughter and went to her mother's home on Seventh Street.

        Ms. Tevis said she and other family members decided to wait out the gas outage at her mother's home in an effort to help each other keep warm.

        “There are nine people, five kids and four adults, in the house,” she said. “We sleep in our clothes, and I keep my daughter in pajamas and socks.”

        Mrs. Griola said the social service agency can use whatever donations people would like to make, especially blankets, sweat pants and coats.

        Procter & Gamble and Target have donated food, blankets and clothing, but every day more people are showing up for help, she said.

        “We're most concerned about the infants, small children, and the elderly shut-ins who might not be able to get to the shelter,” she said, adding that many people have come in off the street to volunteer their time as well as donate the needed items.

        The social service agency won't be open today, but will be on Monday, she said.

        Anyone who wants to donate goods or food that does not need to be cooked can call the Brighton Center at (859) 491-8303, Ext. 2300.

        For those Newport residents who want to get information or help, call the city's emergency phone line, (859) 291-2333.

        And to schedule an appointment for an inspection of an indoor gas line, call Cinergy at (513) 651-4466.

        Residents must stay home in order to have an inspection, officials said.


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