Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tucson Area Had Natural Gas Shortage This Week

Some Tucson-area customers may be without natural gas service as late as Monday or Tuesday, Southwest Gas spokeswoman Libby Howell said.
The utility is bringing in about 70 workers from elsewhere to help re-start gas service at homes on Tucson's east side.
About 14,000 Tucson homes east of North Swan Road in the Catalina Foothills and in the Rita Ranch area have been without natural gas service since this morning, Howell said.
Southwest Gas workers will have to go door-to-door in those areas twice, Howell said. First they will turn off the meters at each house, then they will go inside each house to light pilot lights and ensure service has resumed, Howell said.
In response to the outages and record cold, city officials are opening two shelters at 5 p.m. today. They are at Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road and Pantano Christian Church, 10355 E. 29th St.
The Udall location will permit pets but only if they are in crates, and the Pantano location will not accept pets.
A shortage of natural gas in the pipeline that serves Tucson left areas on Tucson's northeast and southeast sides without gas service beginning this morning.
The southern part of Sierra Vista, down to Hereford, also is without gas service. Cochise County has set up temporary warming centers, not equipped as shelters, in Benson, Bisbee, Douglas, Sierra Vista and Willcox.
The places most affected around Tucson are from North Swan Road eastward in the Catalina Foothills to North Wentworth Road and the Rita Ranch area on the southeast side.
Southwest Gas is asking customers who still have natural-gas service to limit their use by turning down the heat and reducing hot-water usage.
The reason for the shortage is not only the high demand by residential customers but also high demand by power companies to fuel their plants, El Paso Natural Gas said in a news release. In addition, power outages and freeze-offs in the areas that supply gas have reduced the supply.
“More gas is being taken off our system than we have supplies coming into the system,” El Paso said.
El Paso supplies the gas used by Southwest’s customers, while Southwest runs the local distribution system. El Paso said it is shifting all the gas possible into its pipeline.
East-side resident Donna Ester said her thermostat was set at 60 degrees all night but the gas went out before it automatically goes up during the day. The result: the indoor temperature was in the low 50s all day and promised to go further down.
“I worry most about my cat because he is always cold,” Ester said via e-mail. “I’ve been heating up a neckwarmer in the microwave and putting it in his bed.”
A drop in the pipeline's pressure began knocking out customers' service around 6:30 a.m., Howell said. As the extent of the problem became clear, the utility turned off service to affected areas.
It’s a scary scenario for elderly people living in Hereford, resident Beverly Manigault said. The temperature dropped below zero in their area, which lies in a dip near the Huachuca Mountains, she said.
Electric space heaters are sold out at local retail stores, but Manigault’s husband was able to buy three at the store on Fort Huachuca, she said.
They’re using two in their home and gave the other to an elderly neighbor, she said.
At Loew's Ventana Canyon resort, on the northeast side, 400 guests found themselves without heat today, General Manager Brian Johnson said. The resort adjusted by serving mostly cold items in the restaurants and providing extra blankets to guests.
About 10 guests checked out as a result, he said. Guests may also request to be moved to another inn, he said.
The resort's engineers also examined the gas fireplace in the resort's lobby and determined it could be used to burn wood, so logs are flaming there now, Johnson said.
"A lot of guests we’ve talked to have been very understanding," he said. "It’s totally out of our control."

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