Kelly declares statewide emergency, gas, electric supplies tight

Hays Daily News Staff Reports
Michael Billinger, an employee of Field Abstract & Title Co., 1201 Fort St., shovels snow early Sunday morning at that office, as deep-freeze temperatures registered minus 1 degree in Hays.
The Southwest Power Pool is asking customers to conserve energy during the bitter cold gripping the midwest that has left electricity and gas supplies extremely tight.

Extreme record-breaking cold continued its grip on Ellis County Sunday and Monday, as part of a storm blanketing the Midwest.

Topping that off, snowfall from Saturday night and overnight to Sunday morning brought 2.5 inches of snow to Hays, according to the K-State Ag Research Center at Hays.

Gov. Laura Kelly on Sunday issued a statewide state of disaster emergency due to wind chill warnings and stress on utility and natural gas providers.

The temperature Monday in Hays by 11 a.m. had reached only minus 6 degrees, with a "feels like" temperature of minus 22. Tuesday's forecast is for warming, with a high of 14 degrees and a low of zero. Not until Wednesday are temperatures expected to climb into the low 20s.

Midwest Energy, the utility serving Ellis County and many surrounding counties, asked its customers Sunday night to start saving energy where possible. 

"Midwest Energy is asking customers whose health permits to turn thermostats down a bit, and to not use appliances with heavy electricity consumption, beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15 and continuing through mid-week," said a press release from the company.

AAA Kansas Roadside Assistance said its calls for dead car batteries and cold weather engine failures requiring towing made up 77% of the service calls they received the past week. Calls the past week were up 101% from the first week in February.

“Last week brought a trifecta of bad events," said a Midwest Energy press release, with Bill Dowling, Midwest Energy’s vice president for engineering and energy supply, citing "the lowest temperatures in decades across the entire region for more than a week; tight supplies of natural gas due to record use and supply interruptions; and finally, wind generation resources are at low levels and the wind is forecast to decrease further Sunday evening."

Sub-zero temperatures cause an increased energy demand and natural gas supply constraints, said a press release from Gov. Kelly.

"Utilities are currently experiencing wholesale natural gas prices anywhere from 10 to 100 times higher than normal," said the release from the governor's office. "Those costs will eventually flow through to consumers, and increase monthly natural gas and electric bills."

The Southwest Power Pool, which is the regional transmission operator for a 14-state region, issued a region-wide Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Level 1 effective at 5 a.m. central time Monday. An EEA1 is the first of three levels of energy emergency alert. An EEA2 will be triggered if SPP no longer has sufficient generation available to meet expected energy requirements and reserves are considered deficient. A Level 3 event will result in planned service interruptions. Throughout SPP’s 14-state area, similar calls for conservation are being made by all electric utilities, said Midwest Energy's release.

The cold is also putting a significant strain on natural gas supplies, said Midwest Energy. The cold weather is freezing off natural gas production, making less gas available for delivery to customers.

Midwest Energy is asking its natural gas customers to conserve energy as the utility sees unprecedented demand on the gas system due to both the cold weather and the large demand for electric generation fuel.

“These next few days will be very tight in terms of both electric and natural gas supplies,” said Patrick Parke, Midwest Energy’s chief executive officer, in the release. “I’ve not seen a situation like this in my nearly four decades of utility experience.”

He said customers can make a significant impact on electric and natural gas demand:

· If your health permits, turn your furnace thermostat down 2 to 4 degrees.

· Postpone using high-consumption appliances such as clothes dryers, ovens and dishwashers. Delay laundry a day or two, or making microwave-friendly meals, and hand-washing dishes (if you have an electric water heater) would save significant amounts of electricity.

· Turn off any lights and appliances that you do not need or are not using.