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Winter Tips For Natural Gas and Propane Users

March 09, 2011

Extraordinary snowfall in the Sierra Nevada has created deep snow that can damage natural gas and propane pipes, valves and tanks. Explosions and fires can occur, causing injuries and deaths. Placer County suggests the following safety tips for proper care of propane tanks during severe winter weather:

  • Use a broom instead of a shovel when clearing snow off the tank or around the exposed piping, regulator, gauges, or tubing. Don't use a shovel or anything with metal or hard plastic. Remove snow from the meter by hand. Do not use a snow blower near the meter. Do not attempt to remove ice from the meter.
  • When clearing the roof, avoid shoveling snow onto exposed piping, the regulator or the tank, as well as any meters that may be in use.
  • Do not pile snow and ice over meters, valves and piping.
  • Check regulator vents on the system to be sure they are free of snow or ice, or water that could freeze. (A two-stage system has a regulator on the tank and where the piping enters the building; a single regulator system is located only on the tank.) If a regulator vent is clogged with ice or snow, immediately contact your supplier.
  • Check all gas appliance exhaust and combustion air vents, such as dryer or furnace vents, to ensure they are clear of snow and ice.

For homes above 5,000 feet of elevation that have an issue with propane gas, contact either your propane supplier or you local fire jurisdiction. For natural gas questions, contact your supplier. If you smell a gas odor, take the following steps:

  • Leave immediately! Do not return until given permission by utility or emergency officials.
  • Do not use electric switches, phones or anything that can cause a spark. Don't turn lights on or off or use any other electrical switches, including garage door openers.
  • Don't open any windows or doors other than the ones you pass through on your way out.
  • Go to a safe location and call 911.
  • Alert your neighbors.
  • Leave all repairs to trained professionals. Do not try to repair the leak yourself.

Before a snow storm occurs:

  • In areas where heavy snows are expected, cover the regulator, relief valves, and fill valves with a protective cap or "dome." This dome will keep out snow, ice, or rain which might freeze and clog the regulator. In systems using more than one regulator, or where the cover is not in place, make certain the exposed regulator vent is in the downward position to keep out moisture.
  • Prior to heavy snow storms, mark the location of the tank and other equipment with snow stakes that should extend well above the maximum anticipated snow depth. Consumers whose tanks and piping are not presently marked should mark them prior to snow storms.
  • Keep chimneys, flues and vents clear of snow and ice. Blockages can lead to a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide.

Contact local natural gas and propane suppliers for more information about heavy snow conditions or, if you observe any of the following conditions:

  • Snow or ice formations located above a meter.
  • The meter is located below a downspout.
  • The overhang or eaves do not fully extend over the meter.
  • The meter is located below a roof valley without a gutter.
  • The meter is located below an exterior water spigot.

Placer County recommends that property owners or property managers keep their contact information, including home and cell phone numbers, current with their gas suppliers, homeowner associations, and/or neighbors. In a gas emergency it is important that emergency personnel be able to contact affected property owners.

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