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UPDATED: Natural gas outage affecting thousands

Avista Utilities said in a Wednesday news release that it expects to restore service to all 4,800 customers affected by a natural gas outage by the end of Friday.

The gas outage, which was caused by an unexpected restriction on the flow during routine valve maintenance. After repairing the issue, the company turned to relighting pilot lights for its affected customers, the number of which increased with the first two updates.

The company said in a Tuesday news release that its affected customers might not see full service for another two to three days.

Residents and restaurant owners situated between the Ashland airport and downtown face the prospect of days without heat for their homes or water or power to open their businesses.

“It’s really bad,” said Birong Hutabart, owner of Blue Toba restaurant on Ashland Street. “But I don’t know how to react to not being able to earn money the next two, three days.”

The outage, which occurred because of a drop in pressure in the natural gas pipeline, was first reported in an update from the city of Ashland. Avista notified the city that customers are affected, but customers discussing the outage on social media said they had not received any alert from the company.

Avista’s outage app, according to its website, provides updates on outages.

Avista did not immediately respond to questions delivered through the 24/7 media line Tuesday afternoon. The company said in its news release that all natural gas crews in the area and others from farther away are being deployed to restore service.

Hutabart said he first noticed that his gas stove at Blue Toba wasn’t functioning properly when he arrived at the restaurant around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. He said the pressure increased slightly a few hours later, enabling him to cook a couple of dishes, but another hour and a half after opening, the gas flow was completely shut off.

Avista said in its release that before crews come to relight affected customers’ pilot lights, service for some may be shut off entirely for safety reasons.

“This is done for the safety of our customers, communities and employees, but we understand that this is an inconvenience and appreciate the patience of our customers,” the release said.

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