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UPDATED: Martinez Declares State of Emergency

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Governor sends nonessential state workers home, and calls on residents to turn down their thermostats to help deal with gas outages reported around New Mexico

 

Gov. Susana Martinez has declared a state of emergency because of the natural gas outages that have hit communities around the state, according to The Associated Press.

The AP reported that Martinez sent all nonessential state workers home for the day, and urged all residents to turn down their thermostats, bundle up and shut off appliances they don’t need for the next 24 hours.

The governor also said people can call non-emergency police and fire numbers in their communities for help or shelter locations.

“As New Mexicans, we’ve always gotten through difficult situations,” she said. “We will get through this situation as well.”

 


 

Thursday, 03 February 2011 12:45

 

The problem, officials say, is an inability to get gas into New Mexico, partly because of electricity blackouts in Texas and partly because of large-scale regional demand.

 

Communities effected include:

  • Taos
  • Española
  • Tularosa
  • Alamogordo
  • Silver City
  • Questa
  • parts of Rio Rancho
  • parts of Bernalillo
  • Placitas
  • Kirtland Air Force Base
  • parts of Otero County
  • La Luz

The problem is that the nationwide cold snap has simply overwhelmed the natural gas system, said Mike Hightower, a Sandia Labs researcher who studies national energy infrastructure.

“It’s not that anybody goofed up,” Hightower said as he sat in an unheated Sandia building where the gas had been turned off.

Sandia began sending workers home at midday because of the lack of gas, and sent maintenance crews around to turn faucets on to trickle to try to prevent pipes from freezing, said spokesman Jim Danneskiold.

The University of New Mexico on Thursday turned off its natural gas heating lines and switched to a backup diesel-fueled heat system in an effort to help reduce demand.

That switch made a supply of gas available to other users without affecting the university’s ability to heat its main and north campus buildings as classes were held Thursday, said Mary Vosevich, director of UNM’s utility operations.

“We are in contact with the New Mexico Gas Company and they were wanting  us to start conserving natural gas, and we have this backup system of  being able to operate our boilers on diesel. We always have the diesel on hand. That was a decision that we thought was the right thing to do,” she said.

In case of potential problems with UNM’s heaters on Thursday, students were warned to bring warm clothes to class. Although the campus  infrastructure isn’t build to manage such low temperatures, buildings maintained heat through the backup system, Vosevich said.

-by John Fleck and James Monteleone

 

 


 

Thursday, 03 February 2011 11:39

Berry says problem with supply and demand for natural gas is causing difficulties in N.M.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is asking Albuquerque residents to turn down their thermostats 10 degrees and put on sweaters to help deal with what he described as a supply and demand problem for natural gas in New Mexico.

While there are reports of gas outages on and around Kirtland Air Force Base, the mayor said at a news conference this morning that Albuquerque is in better shape than other places in the state, including Placitas, Bernalillo, Taos, Silver City and Truth or Consequences.

ABQJournal.com reported earlier today that an estimated 9,000 customers were affected by the disruption of natural gas services in Bernalillo and
Placitas, according to the New Mexico Gas
Company website
.

An additional 10,800 customers have been affected in the Taos, Questa
and Red River areas, and roughly 2,600 customers in Espanola are being
affected by service disruptions, according to the gas company’s
emergency updates.

The Taos News is reporting that Questa has declared a state of emergency amid the natural gas disruption, while Red River has opened its fire station for shelter.

And the Albuquerque Journal’s Rosalie Rayburn has reported that town officials in Bernalillo say the town recreation center and National Guard Armory at the Hawk Site can provide shelter for people without gas heating.

 


 

10:30am UPDATE: The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is asking all residents of the unincorporated county to lower their thermostats by 10 degrees to reduce the pressure on current natural gas supplies.

A similar announcement from the city of Albuquerque is expected shortly.

Officials have set up shelters in Rio Rancho at Santa Ana Star Center
and in Albuquerque at the Community Center in Rotary Park to
accommodate those families without heat, KOB-TV is reporting.

 


 

9:40am UPDATE: New Mexico’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center to a Level 3 operations status because of the effects of the extreme cold in communities across New Mexico, Secretary-Designate Michael S. Duvall said in a news release.

Various utility companies have been unable to keep up with the high demand for increased power and fuel because of sub-zero temperatures, the release said.

Activation to this level means that staff emergency management staff will operate the EOC and coordinate any local requests for assistance and will stay in touch with local emergency managers to meet any additional problems that may arise because of the extremely cold temperatures, according to the release.

 


 

Albuquerque Public Safety Director Darren White told KOAT-TV this morning that as many as 20,000 city residents could be without gas service today.

Increased demand has led to lower gas pressure around the city and the potential for loss of service, and the city was contacted early this morning and told of the potential outage, Action 7 News said.

“We were concerned all night long that this was a potential, especially first thing this morning when the gas company is used to their demand dropping,” White told KOAT-TV.

Because of the outages and curtailing of gas services the city of Albuquerque has activated its emergency operations center, Public Safety Communications Director T.J. Wilham said in an e-mail.

Natural gas services also have been disrupted in Bernalillo and Placitas, affecting an estimated 9,000 customers, according to the New Mexico Gas Company website.

An additional 10,800 customers have been affected in the Taos, Questa and Red River areas, and roughly 2,600 customers in Espanola are being affected by service disruptions, according to the gas company’s emergency updates.

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