New Jersey Natural Gas technicians are now making on-the-ground inspections to the company's systems two days after valves were closed to two barrier islands.
The inspections of gas lines in the communities of Long Beach Island and the Barnegat Peninsula from Bay Head south represent the first step in a "sequential process to restore service," the company said in a statement Saturday.
"Each section of the pipeline must be rigorously evaluated to check for all damage, including breaks and water intrusion," the statement said. "Once this assessment is completed, a determination can be made as to whether some sections of the pipeline can be salvaged. Damaged sections will need to be rebuilt."
The company shut off service to the two islands after ruptured lines fueled fires in Mantoloking and the Camp Osborn section of Brick. The company also detected more than 1,000 leaks on Long Beach Island, though no fires were reported there. It was feared that sparks from electricity restoration could have caused explosions.
Since pressure in the lines was reduced to zero, the company said, salt water was expected to intrude, causing damage to the system.
NJNG also said it has made an initial, official request to FEMA for up to 5,100 electric space heaters for residents whose heat was turned off.
Until this request is approved, the company said, the Red Cross advises that nearby heated shelters with hot meals and cots are available at Pinelands Regional High School in Tuckerton, Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, and Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.
NJNG said developing a restoration plan is the next step in the process, a step that can only be reliably undertaken once the full extent of the condition of the system is known.
No exact timelines were given as to how long it would take to repair the system.
The company did say that before service can be restored to a residence, a home must be habitable and they must have returned to it; a home must have electricity; and any furnaces, boilers or appliances exposed to flooding damage must be serviced and determined, by qualified technicians, to be safe for use.
"We know how frustrating this process is," the statement said. "It is a long, exacting process that must be done safely and correctly at every step of the way. It is why we worked so hard to try and save service to all our customers before making the decision to shut down the system. We will not rest until service is restored to all of our customers."