Some Rita Ranch residents get gas service back

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Thurday's cold weather caused an overwhelming demand of gas heat for Southwest Gas customers.

Thousands of people lost service, many on the southeast side.

The residents in a Rita Ranch neighborhood woke up to more than frozen pipes.

"Actually we woke up this morning it was cold in the house and it was blowing cold air, an hour or two ago a couple of hours ago, and she told me that the heats not working, so I came home and found out the heat was just blowing cold air," said resident Larry Woolsey.

Larry woolsey and his wife aren't alone, many residents were feeling cold air outside and in their homes.

At least 14,000 southwest gas customers did not have heat Thursday.

"It's kind of cold, but I don't remember it this cold this long in the day, this is ridiculous.  i've lived here all my life and it's never been this cold," said Rita Ranch resident Adam Gall.

Some of the people in this neighborhood say they've never had problems with gas but with temperatures so low, they're not sure what they're going to do to get heat in their homes.

"Wear some jackets and just try to stay warm," said Gall. 

"We'll find some place, hotel or something or we just bundle up," said Larry.

One option residents have tried is getting space heaters to warm up the home. But shelves at the neighborhood hardware store now sit empty.

"We actually sold out about three hours into the work day this morning," said Michael McBee from Ace Hardware.

All what's left to do now is wait, because Southwest Gas has to physically turn off each meter at each home before they restore service.

"We don't want to introduce gas into a system where those pilots have gone out that would create a hazardous unsafe condition for our customers," said Todd Didier from Southwest Gas.

The gas company is asking customers to pack some patiences, because it could take a while for things to get back to normal.

"We're estimating anywhere from two to three days at the longest that those customers will be without gas in some of those areas," said Didier.

El Paso Natural Gas which supplies Southwest Gas says they are seeing significant increases in demand on its pipeline system for several reasons which include, prolonged sub-freezing temperatures and high demand by utility companies to fuel power plants.

Southwest Gas began returning gas service to Tucson residents in the Rita Ranch area late Friday afternoon.

The process of turning off gas to the homes in Tucson's foothills area was still going taking place Friday.  Gas lines must be closed at individual homes and appliances before gas service can be returned.  Once the gas service has been returned, Southwest Gas must be able to accesss homes to ignite pilot lights.