Skip to main content.

Virginia Natural Gas deploys new technology to aid restoration efforts following devastating Virginia Beach tornado

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – May 5, 2023 – In the wake of a powerful EF-3 tornado that destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes in Virginia Beach April 30, Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) deployed a vehicle equipped with advanced methane detection equipment to patrol impacted areas, and after multiple passes, no leaks were found in the affected region.

“This leak detection method is more efficient and sensitive than traditional processes and allows emissions data to be collected at a speed and scale not previously possible, which is highly useful for areas affected by severe weather,” said Rus Hayslett, vice president of Operations at Virginia Natural Gas. “Following a storm of this magnitude, we want to ensure the community is safe and the integrity of our natural gas system is maintained, and this tool helps us do that most efficiently.”

The vehicle, equipped with sensitive state-of-the-art mobile natural gas leak detection technology and sensors capable of measuring methane in parts-per-billion levels, identifies and measures methane plumes in the air, maps their locations and helps prioritize the investigation of these potential leaks within the VNG system.

Immediately following the tornado that brought 145 mph winds along a four-mile path of destruction, VNG worked with first responders and dispatched crews to assess the area, responding to service outages due to structural damage. Crews reported no natural gas-related emergencies in the area; however, they did have to contend with downed debris on natural gas meters and broken service lines from uprooted trees.

The mobile leak detection system is smart enough to know if the methane identified is from natural gas or other sources like biogas from sewers, according to Hayslett.

“After we made the area safe, there was still a lingering smell of natural gas. We utilized this mobile leak detection platform to double-check if there were other possible leaks coming from our system or elsewhere,” he said.

VNG expects recovery and restoration activities to extend through the weekend and reminds customers to keep safety in mind during this time:

  • If you smell natural gas, immediately leave the premises and call 911. Then call our 24-hour emergency response line, 877.572.3342 once you are in a safe location.
  • Use care when clearing fallen trees and other debris. 
  • Call VA811 and allow at least three full business days before digging roots, repairing fences or doing other work that requires digging to avoid damaging underground utility lines. Please be patient and wait for local utilities to mark the area with flags or paint, making it easier to dig safely.


About Virginia Natural Gas

Virginia Natural Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas service to more than 300,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in southeast Virginia. Consistently ranked in the top quartile for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates, the company also has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Energy (Virginia Energy) and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association for its safety, innovation, environmental stewardship, community outreach and educational programs, and has been named Local Distribution Company of the Year five times since 2015. The company has been ranked by its business customers as one of the most Trusted Business Partners in the utility industry according to Cogent Reports, and a Top Workplaces in Hampton Roads by Inside Business. For more information, visit and connect with the company on FacebookTwitter,  Instagram, LinkedIn and Nextdoor.

About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.4 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states with approximately 600,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Rick DelaHaya
o: 757.616.7510 | c: 757.323.7366 | www.virginianaturalgas/pressroom