Residents in Parsons and surrounding cities are being asked to conserve gas and electric, and emergency notice was issued stating the potential for Altamont residents to lose access to natural gas completely.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued a state of disaster emergency Sunday as bitterly cold temperatures resulted in stresses on utility and natural gas usage.

“Because of the sub-zero temperatures which causes an increased energy demand and natural gas supply constraints, utilities are currently experiencing wholesale natural gas prices anywhere from 10 to 100 times higher than normal. Those costs will eventually flow through to consumers and increase monthly natural gas and electric bills,” the governor’s release said.

Residents of Altamont were notified Monday of potential temporary loss of their natural gas supply due to the costs. 

“With the entire Midwest being hit with extremely cold weather, natural gas producers have been faced with various problems, including wellhead freeze-offs and increased demand by customers. We have been informed that our supplier of natural gas has increased gas prices. Gas prices for the next few days have gone up 100 times normal prices from $3 to nearly $400,” the city of Altamont said in a release. “For KMGA (Kansas Municipal Gas Agency) to purchase our supply through Tuesday (four days) costs over $30 million. Their normal annual budget is $8-9 million. With this being said, there is a very likely possibility that supply could be limited or cut after Tuesday.”

KMGA purchases, schedules and manages natural gas supply across seven upstream pipelines/distribution systems throughout Kansas. Its website states it currently has contracts in place with nine suppliers, from which it seeks bids to ensure member cities are receiving competitive natural gas pricing. KMGA is impacted by decisions by Southern Star’s operational gas flow order and usage charges.

Southern Star is a leading transporter of natural gas to America’s heartland, with approximately 5,800 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline in the Midwest and Mid-Continent regions of the United States.

The city of Altamont wanted residents to know they are not alone in facing the issues, as other cities and states are facing problems as well due to the Arctic blast increasing demands.

“The entire Midwest region has asked gas and electric consumers to conserve as much as possible. We are diligently working to find a solution to this situation and keep costs down for the city and residents,” the city of Altamont said in its release. “We have pursued avenues at state and federal levels. Staff will continue to work with KMGA and others to do everything we can for our natural gas utility and customers.”

Altamont City Administrator Audree Aguilera said the city would be meeting with KMGA at 3 p.m. Monday and would hold a city council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday to discuss what to do regarding Southern Star’s orders.

The city was in touch with Labette County Emergency Management Director Charlie Morse regarding the possible need for emergency shelters for those who could lose heat.

“I know they put something on Facebook about if they lose their gas supply we’ll start opening up shelters. We’ll have Red Cross in here, and we’ll start getting shelters opened up,” Morse said. 

However, he added, “The new issue we’ve just been made aware of is the Southwest Power Pool, which encompasses all the electric providers in Kansas, has gone to an energy emergency alert level 3. What that means is providers can use controlled service interruptions, which is essentially rolling blackouts.”

Evergy began rolling blackouts Monday afternoon.

“The periods of interruption will likely be a small number of hours, but with temperatures at the lows they are, it won’t take long for people to get cold,” Morse said.

Altamont residents will have difficulty heating their homes if they lose both natural gas and electricity for any period of time. The city has no control over the blackouts, which are reported to last between 30 and 60 minutes.

Twin Valley Electric Cooperative informed its customers that the rolling blackouts do not happen at the distribution level. Therefore the company could not tell customers when they would happen or for how long.

“The power suppliers are doing everything they can,” Twin Valley said on its Facebook page.

Weather forecasts predict temperatures remaining below freezing throughout the week.

Aguilera encouraged residents relying on natural gas heat to prepare for worse-case scenarios of gas being cut off by suppliers during this situation or in the future. She encouraged people to use electric space heaters or find a place to stay. 

Electric heaters were scarce on Monday in Altamont or Parsons.

In addition, they are encouraged to insulate pipes, windows, doors, etc.

The city of Altamont is working on a contingency for shelters and transportation in the event it loses gas supply.

To conserve energy, residents are asked to:

— Turn down the thermostat to 67 degrees or less. Stay warm, not hot. 

— Wear layers when inside.

— Ensure all doors and windows remain shut (including overhead doors).

— Seal windows and doors.

— Place blankets near drafty windows and doors.

— Close off unused rooms.

— Close curtain and blinds. 

— Take short showers. Do not run a bathtub full of water.

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