Placer County is working with property owners, local fire agencies, propane providers and other agencies to remedy leaks occurring from propane tanks buried under dozens of feet of snow. Heavy snowfall can damage pipes, valves and tanks, leading to leaks. The county is advising High Sierra residents and businesses to monitor buildings and propane tanks and natural gas lines for signs of leakage. Residents and businesses need to ensure that propane tanks and natural gas are properly cared for due to an extraordinarily deep snowpack.
There are currently unresolved leaks in both the Serene Lakes area and the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. In addition to the property owners, who have been cooperative in working with the County, entities that are involved include fire protection districts, the Sheriff’s Office, propane providers, county Environmental Health and the county Office of Emergency Services.
The situation facing workers attempting to resolve the leaks is finding an appropriate method to access tanks when they are under a massive snowpack. Conventional methods of removing snow such as snow blowers, front loaders and snow plows cannot be used due to the danger of explosions if metal were to cause sparks. Because propane is heavier than air, it tends to sink and collect at ground level. When it cools, it becomes a liquid.
Anyone who smells propane or natural gas inside or outside a building should call 911. They also should avoid smoking, starting engines or motors, turning on cooking appliances, using heating-air conditioning systems or using other ignition sources if they smell propane or natural gas.
For homes at elevations above 5,000 feet, residents and businesses with propane questions should contact either their propane suppliers or local fire agencies. For natural gas questions, contact suppliers.
Safety tips for the proper care of propane tanks during severe weather are on the county website at http://www.placer.ca.gov/News/2011/March/Propane.aspx.