Alberta issues alert, natural gas outages reported in some homes in the north
John Cotter, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, December 29, 2017 9:43PM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 29, 2017 10:25PM EST
EDMONTON -- Alberta's Emergency Management Agency has issued an alert about natural gas outages affecting people who live in the north as the region deals with frigid temperatures.
The agency says the extreme cold weather has disrupted the supply of gas to the Mackenzie County area.
People who can't heat their homes are being encouraged to stay with friends and family who have alternative heat sources.
The agency says natural gas supply trucks are being brought in to try and maintain gas line pressure, but the problem is expected to continue until temperatures rise.
A reception centre is open at the Mennonite Heritage Centre in La Crete, a hamlet about 700 kilometres north of Edmonton.
Environment Canada is reporting temperatures at the High Level airport of -38 C, -48 C with the wind chill, and there is more extreme cold weather in the forecast.
"At this point we are requesting that all natural gas users within the region limit their usage as much as possible," the county said in a post on Facebook Friday.
"This will help gas reach the end of the line and prevent additional houses from freezing."
The Mackenzie County website says about 12,000 people live in the remote area that includes the communities of La Crete, Fort Vermilion and High Level.
Len Racher, the county's chief administrative officer, said as a precaution the hospital in Fort Vermilion has switched over to diesel for heat and a long-term care home in La Crete has switched to propane.
He said officials have warming centres and buses ready if needed.
Racher said officials are focusing on maintaining service to the communities where most people live.
"We have everything under control at this point. Nobody is in any kind of imminent danger," he said in an interview.
"Should it get worse we have plans in place to ramp up if we have to start moving people around."
Racher said local officials and the provincial government are doing a good job dealing with the natural gas shortage.
There was no immediate estimate on how many people were without heat.
"A few people have lost (their heat) but they are northern people and they have wood stoves and are used to some blips here and there," he said.
"We have prepared for the worst case scenario. With what is being done I don't think that will happen, but knock on wood, right?"
Racher said the shortage and outages point to the need for another pipeline to supply the region with natural gas.