Friday, February 4, 2011

New Mexico Natural Gas Outage

It's been an interesting, and cold, few days around here. First we had cold night temperatures that went down past 20 below zero two nights ago. That night I could see my breath as I lay in bed, under a huge pile of blankets.

Then, the next morning, the entire town of Taos, along with many other areas of New Mexico, lost natural gas service. Natural gas is the only, or primary, source of heat for many here, including yours truly. Governor Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency for New Mexico on Thursday. Over 10,000 customers were out of natural gas, just in my area alone.

The local stores immediately sold out of space heaters, electric blankets, etc., yesterday morning. And all the grocery stores and gas stations were also mobbed, as people were concerned about the electric grid failing. There were a few minor power outages last night, but that was all. Shelters were set up for those who needed it, though I heard that not many people took advantage of it.

My personal situation was that I had only one small electric space heater. I went to the stores to try to buy another one, but they were all gone. I fueled up the car, as it was already almost on empty, and then I went home and took a shower with the last of the hot water in my gas water heater. So I was clean, but my house was getting cold. I do have a fireplace, but that is in another part of the house, away from the kitchen and bathroom. My biggest concern was pipes freezing during the night.

In the afternoon, I heard on a local radio station, that the local Ace Hardware store was going to have a truckload of portable heaters delivered. I called them and they told me that the heaters, 1200 of them, were being driven down from Colorado and should be arriving around 9 PM. After closing at their regular time, they would open up again, at 9, to sell the heaters.

I got there a little after 9 PM to a surreal scene of 40 or more cars and trucks sitting out in a dark, icy parking lot in front of the hardware store. There was a police car there also. I was told by the man standing outside the store that the truck had encountered a snow storm up in Colorado, and they were now expecting it to arrive between 10 and 10:30 PM. I drove back home for a little while and returned, with my camera, closer to 10 PM. The scene was the same, except there were now more vehicles parked outside the store. Checking in again, I was told there were further delays and they were expecting the truck to arrive between 11 and 11:30... There were now two or three police cars present.

Shortly afterwards they began to let people inside the store to wait where it was warmer, as the temperatures outside were rapidly dropping.  I was among the first group let into the store.  As we waited in the store for over an hour, we were given periodic updates as to where the truck was... It's in San Luis, Colorado... It's in Costilla, New Mexico... it's in Questa... it's in Arroyo Hondo... it's in Taos! Then the heaters, in various types and price ranges, began being distributed to the happy crowd. The police were in the store with us now, to ensure all stayed calm, and that all the heaters that were being walked out the door had actually been paid for.

I found a heater that I liked very much, happily paid for it, and, after taking some photos, drove home. I got back home a little before midnight. I'd have to say it was the strangest shopping trip I've ever made! The extra heater was just what was needed here at home. With it, I was able to get the heated area of the house warmed up to sixty degrees... warm enough to take off my big fuzzy coat for the first time that night. And warm enough that I no longer needed to worry about my water pipes freezing in the night. My cats like the new heater too. Rexie and Boo have abandoned the basket by the (now cold) furnace to sit and lie next the new heater.

The local news has reported that around 900 heaters were sold at Rio Grande Ace last night, and there was a crowd waiting when they opened up this morning to buy up all the rest of last night's shipment. I was very appreciative to the store and its employees for getting this emergency shipment down here, and putting in those extra hours to see that everyone who showed up so late in the night got the heaters they needed. Below are some photos from last night.

We arrived in the dark of the night, in search of elusive heat...

    The Taos Police were on hand to help... 
                                    
After a long hour standing in the store waiting, the heaters were about to arrive...

Heaters!  Yay!!  And I'm not the only one taking photos of the happy event...

Smiles break out in the weary crowd as heaters get distributed...
And the parade of heaters begins to walk out the door into the cold, cold night...












5 comments:

Gareth said...

That was really a fantastic thing i have ever seen...
chilling winters are really hard to bear.,.,

Doug Kueffler said...

Great story and terrific photos! This is what blogging is all about: the personal stories of our lives.

Marc said...

Excellent reporting. Hope your gas service has come back online.

Lady Banana said...

I was under the impression that you lived somewhere that never got cold! lol

wintergurl said...

ACe make a lot money from this.