"We didn't declare an emergency situation at this point, but we're getting very close to it."
Record cold in Texas and Oklahoma has spread like a contagion up and across the Midwest, leaving snow and natural gas shortages in it's wake across the Tri-State, leading to cities like Grayville, Huntingburg and Jasper to issue a natural gas emergency. In Jasper's case, Mayor Dean Vonderheide and his team have been extremely proactive, developing a plan in a meeting last night.
"It was evident that we needed to reach out to industry, said Vonderheide, "to our local commercial establishments and to our residents to cut back on their natural gas usage. In the case of industry, we've asked them to shut down in many cases."
And in the case of industry, they're cooperation with the mayor's request has come across the board.
"We've had cooperation with all the large industries here," said Vonderheide. "Where there is natural gas consumption, they've either closed operations or have gone to an alternative fuel, or reduced considerably their consumption."
So what does that mean for area restaurants? I had a chance to speak with Alan Hanselman, one of the co-owners of one of the largest restaurants here in Jasper,
Schnitzelbank. And he says that coronavirus has combined with the cold weather to already slow business down to a point where he doesn't have to use all that much energy.
"Normally, we're running like eight fryers and ten ovens during the day," said Hanselman. "We're running like one fryer and one oven right now. That's about it. And we also have
a gas log, which we don't run. We turned that off completely. And we try to keep our heaters at around 68 degrees."
Jasper city schools are already going virtual for the rest of the week. And residents also have a big part to play in the mayor's plan.
"We've asked them to set their thermostats below 68 degrees," said Vonderheide "and to monitor the usage of hot water and not to use their gas fireplaces at this time."
Mayor Vonderheide says this is all in effort to preserve natural gas for area's most vulnerable in hopsitals and nursing homes. He says the emergency is expected to last through the weekend and possibly the beginning of next week.