Cold weather causes gas outages in northern Alberta county, local state of emergency declared

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A local state of emergency was declared in Mackenzie County and a reception centre was set up in northern Alberta on Friday afternoon for people affected by natural gas supply outages that officials say were brought on by the “persistent cold weather.”

The Alberta Emergency Management Agency said the gas supply disruption in Mackenzie County has resulted in some areas south of La Crete, Alta. to experience outages.

“The problem is expected to persist until the temperature rises,” officials said. “Natural gas supply trucks are being brought in to try and maintain gas line pressure.”

On the Mackenzie County Facebook page, officials said although natural gas trucks have been feeding the system in the Blue Hills area for the past two days, they are “struggling to keep up with the fuel demands of our region.”

“The immediate concern is keeping people warm, and the additional concern is people’s homes getting too cold and their water lines and so forth freezing and causing damage,” Byron Peters, deputy chief administrative officer for Mackenzie County, told Global News over the phone.

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“Currently, the situation is, I’d say, under control. We’re losing gas supply to some rural residences. Our hamlets are on alert but we’re optimistic that they’ll be fine.”

Impacted residents are encouraged to stay with friends or family who have alternative heat sources, but a reception centre has also been set up at the La Crete Mennonite Heritage Centre.

As of 8 p.m., Peters said nobody had reported to the reception centre even though at least a dozen homes had been confirmed to have experienced a gas outage.

“There’s quite a few people in the region that do have wood stoves,” he said. “We believe that most people are moving over to friends and family if they have lost natural gas heat in their homes.”

Mackenzie County officials said two compressors and a product truck were expected to arrive at about midnight, along with a support compressor from the province.

“We’ve been in regular contact with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, the provincial operations centre in Edmonton,” Peters said. “They’ve offered to assist in any way they can.

“The larger issue… (is) rectifying the natural gas supply challenge to our region, because this was a problem that came up last year when we had a cold snap as well.”

Homeowners and business owners are being asked to keep their gas consumption at a minimum until the issue is resolved.

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For the latest updates on the situation, click here or call the Emergency Operations Centre at 780-928-3983.

At 6 p.m. on Friday, Environment Canada said the temperature in High Level, Alta. was -37.3 C (feeling like -48 C with the wind chill). High Level is located about 110 kilometres northwest of La Crete.

“You definitely didn’t want to spend any amount of time outside today,” Peters said.

La Crete is located about 685 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Mackenzie County spans about 7,761,580 hectares and has a population of 11, 171 according to the 2016 census.

READ MORE: Map: A look at how grossly cold it’s been across Canada

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ Dec. 29, 2017 coverage of the cold snap Alberta finds itself mired in.

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Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ ongoing coverage of bitterly cold temperatures being felt across much of Canada in late December.

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