On Sunday I’m doing laundry in the garage (normal, because that’s where we keep the washer and dryer). I notice that the washing machine has rocked back a couple of inches due to what I assume was enthusiastic washing from a previous cycle (normal, it’s a new washer and very excited to do its job). I decide to pull it back into place (also normal; what would you have done?).
And this is where everything goes wrong. I move the washing machine perhaps a half-inch forward and I hear “SSSSSssssSSsSSsSSSSSSSSsssSSssSSssSSssSSSS…” and a high-pitched whistling sound. Well, neither of those things would be good on their own, but when paired with the rotten-egg smell of natural gas we’ve reach full blown disaster mode.
DISASTER MODE RECOVERY, ENGAGED! I open the garage door for ventilation. I scream for the wife, who races downstairs to see what I need. I’m trying to peer behind the washer, but the EXTREMELY HIGH VOLUME OF GAS is making me light-headed so I give up. “GASISLEAKINGOUTYOUNEEDTOGETOUTSIDEANDCALL911I’LLGETCODY!”
She runs out and calls 911. I run inside and get the the dog, the leash, and my sneakers. Unfortunately, I forgot my towel*.
Fun Fact: Our washer/dryer is precisely 1′ away from our GAS POWERED WATER HEATER and GAS POWERED FURNACE. Two things that use pilot lights (ie. open flame) to make things warm (in this case water and air, respectively). I suspected that if a room filled with flammable gas should meet the friendly open flame all sorts of things would begin to go wrong (side note: per gas and electric guy it’s less likely than I thought. Still not worth trying).
Next step, wait for the cavalry, right? NONSENSE! I’m a man of action! Time to turn off the gas to the house and save the day! One problem. Where’s the main shutoff?
There’s a shutoff by the furnace, so I turn that. No effect on the leak, but at least the furnace won’t explode. Didn’t see a shutoff for the water heater (firemen pointed it out to me later; it’s fairly well hidden and difficult to reach. hooray?).
I go out front to the gas meter, thinking it might be there. Well, there’s no handle or knob to turn. There’s a bunch of things I COULD turn with pliers or a wrench, but it seemed like a bad time to start experimenting, you know?
We’re running from neighbor to neighbor, and asked at LEAST 6 of them. NO ONE KNEW! I find that fairly alarming.
To make a long story slightly less long: Firemen (and a firewoman) came out and promptly shut the gas off. It was indeed on the gas meter, and you DID need a wrench to turn it. Now I know (and knowing is half the battle! YO JOE!). They took a look behind the washer and apparently when the washer had rocked back it bumped into the gas valve that used to supply gas to our old dryer (the new one is electric), and opened it about 1/3 of the way, spewing gas out of the hose that was no longer connected to anything. They shut the valve, turned the main house gas back on and headed out. They were super nice about the whole thing.
A little later the San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) guy came out to check everything. He took a look at the valve behind the washer and since it wasn’t in use (electric dryer, remember?) he removed the hose and capped off the valve so it couldn’t accidentally go off again. Hooray. He was also super nice. I gave him a bag of mini oreos and a firm handshake as a thank you.
All in all, an exciting start to Superbowl Sunday. Also, the SECOND time my wife and I almost died due to excesses of poisonous gas in our home (first time was carbon monoxide related – make sure your detectors are up and running!), and the second time the dryer tried to kill us (the reason we have a new dryer is the old one caught fire in the middle of the night). “It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you!” – Some guy.
Anyway, we lived (obviously). Lucky for you, otherwise you wouldn’t have any more of my blogs to read.
Living the Dream (although sometimes it’s a nightmare),
*If you don’t understand this reference I suggest you read “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. You will quickly learn that a towel is the most massively useful thing in the Universe. I can immediately think of a half-dozen ways it would have been useful in this scenario.