City leader opened shelters overnight

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Extreme cold temperatures coupled with a major natural gas outage pushed city leaders into opening shelters Thursday night.

"The loss of gas pressure that really tipped the scales and I said let's go lets go, let's get everybody together, let's mobilize," said Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup.

Mayor Walkup rallied the troops, putting together his team to deal with the bitter cold that swept through Tucson Wednesday night.

City leaders knew it was an emergency situation, especially as temperatures were expected to plummet even lower overnight.

"In Tucson to get down to 15 degrees, and two days in a row, I said we got to do something extraordinary," said Mayor Walkup.

Tucson Water and Southwest Gas crews worked around the clock to restore essential utilities.

"We're going to work diligently until 11P.M. tonight to restore to as many people as we're able to," said Todd Didier from Southwest Gas.

But  with 14,000 people were still without gas in the late afternoon, city leaders offered an alternative to residents needing help.

"If they see they cant safely survive, that's what the shelters are for," said Walkup.

A shelter at Pantano Christian Church, in a team effort with the American Red Cross, was ready to host up to 300 people.  Another 250 could show up at Udall Park.

"If they need us they can come here.  If they get gas back earlier and they don't need us that's wonderful," said a shelter volunteer.

But the mayor predicted Tucsonans would tough it out.

"I'm guessing the vast majority of people are gonna say, 'We're a hearty family, and we'll make it through the night.'  But be safe, don't gamble,'" said Walkup.

The cold weather wreaked havoc all over town Thursday morning as pipes froze and heaters stopped working.