SHIP BOTTOM — Damage to the 300-mile-long grid of gas lines under Long Beach Island wasn’t as bad as initially thought, and sections of the island could have gas service by the end of the week, utility officials said.

Initial estimates were that it could take from six weeks to six months to restore service, but a detailed assessment shows the damage is less widespread.

On Monday, New Jersey Natural Gas said it had successfully reintroduced gas into the system in sections of Ship Bottom and Surf City, and that those sections could have gas restored by the end of the week.

But the Holgate section of Long Beach Township will not be included in the utility’s process of restoring service because of extensive damage there — not only to natural gas infrastructure but also to homes, utility spokesman Micah Rasmussen said.

About 630 customers in the Holgate section are served by the island’s natural gas system, he said.

“There were all kinds of conjectures of what might be the case of the damage, but no one was in a position to know what kind of restoration could take place until the assessment was completed,” Rasmussen said.

The utility shut off service to the entire island and vented the system on Nov. 1. Gov. Chris Christie said he told the utility to do so, having watched the northern Ocean County seaside community of Mantoloking suffer several fires and explosions form leaking gas lines after Hurricane Sandy.

On Long Beach Island, the first thing that the utility had to do was check the gas lines, foot by foot, Rasmussen said.

“In some cases, homes were moved off foundations, and a home went in one direction and the foundation went in another direction and the natural gas line broke,” he said.

There were meters hit by flying debris, flooded and submerged, and many required replacement, he said.

Natural gas was reintroduced in the system Sunday in the section that begins in Ship Bottom, at the block of West 7th Street between Shore and Barnegat avenues, and continues north from 6th Street through 25th Street in Surf City, the company stated in its most recent update.

The utility is now repairing and replacing meters in these sections of the two municipalities and estimates completing its work there by Thursday.

Today, the utility will work on a service restoration plan for the North Beach section of Long Beach Township from Sherwood Way to James Street. Police will block off this section of roadway to pedestrian and vehicle traffic to complete what the utility has called a complex operation.

The utility estimates that the meter work should tentatively be completed by Saturday, but updates will be posted at its website, www.njng.com.

Hundreds of Long Beach Island residents lined up Monday morning to pick up donated electric heaters to help keep their homes warm until gas service is restored.

Residents lined up by car on the shoulder at Central Avenue near the Long Beach Island Grade School to pick up electric heaters, which were donated by the gas company.

Tim Hilferty, director of the Long Beach Island Health Department, said 1,250 heaters were donated. Residents were required to show identification to receive a 1,500-watt space heater, sufficient to warm a medium-sized room.

Genny Craig, of the Peahala Park section of Long Beach Township, picked up a heater today for her home on 93rd Street. She said the first floor was destroyed in the storm.

Her home is about 50 degrees inside and she and her family are living on the second floor, she said, grilling food and boiling water on the grill while they wait for gas service to be restored.

Craig said she and her children evacuated the island, but that her husband stayed, but that “everything is gone — our furniture, our appliances, absolutely everything is gone.”

“I hope the gas will be coming back soon like they’re saying,” she said.

Space heaters will be distributed again at the school from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, and residents will still be required to show their identification in order to receive a heater, Long Beach Township police Chief Michael Bradley said.

There will also be a distribution site open at the school for basic donated necessities of clothing, food, toiletries and baby products, Bradley said.

Contact Donna Weaver:

609-226-9198

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