Supply problems cause outages for Xcel customers on frigid day |

Supply problems cause outages for Xcel customers on frigid day

DENVER ” A shortage of natural gas forced Xcel Energy to impose controlled outages early Saturday in Grand Junction, Eagle County, several other mountain communities and metro Denver, where below-zero temperatures broke at least one record.

A natural gas supplier to Xcel had equipment problems, causing a significant loss of electricity generation at the company’s natural-gas power plants, company spokesman Tom Henley said.

Frozen liquid at the supplier’s well head slowed the flow of natural gas. The problem was enhanced by increased demand because of the freezing temperatures.

Beginning about 8:45 a.m., up to 100,000 customers in the Denver area, Grand Junction, Vail, Aspen and Basalt lost power for about 30 minutes at a time. The outages occurred during a two-hour period.

The blackouts lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

“Its kind of an emergency plan, so the system doesn’t crash,” said Richard Brinkley, general manager for Holy Cross Energy. Excel has imposed the blackouts on Holy Cross, Brinkley said.

“It’s nothing we have control over,” he said.

By 1 p.m., Henley said, supply problems were ending.

“Those gas supplies are starting to flow again to Xcel Energy’s generation system,” Henley said. “Those generating units on natural gas are starting to come back online.”

But he could not guarantee the outages were over.

“We don’t expect any more, but that situation could change at any time,” he said. “We feel like we set ourselves up to the point where we shouldn’t have any more issues.”

Between 3,500 and 5,000 customers remained without power Saturday afternoon in mostly isolated incidents, some of which were caused by the frigid weather.

The outages were nothing compared with the eastern United States, where thousands were without power following a storm with hurricane-force wind gusts.

But Denver’s power problems came on one of the coldest days of the winter across the Eastern Plains. Denver International Airport’s temperature of 13-below zero at 7:13 a.m. broke the record low of 3-below set in 1880, National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kalina said.

Monument recorded a temperature of 22-below, he said.

Temperatures were expected to slowly increase over the week, giving some respite from the bitterness of late Friday and early Saturday.

“We just had a really strong Arctic cold front come down,” Kalina said. “We have been kind of spoiled with warm weather, so that kind of makes it feel even colder.”

Ahmad Ajina, an assistant manager of a Crown Market convenience store in east Denver, said the cold was almost indescribable.

“Last night was wow, unbelievable,” he said.

It was so cold, many of his customers were spending as little time outdoors as possible, Ajina said.

“None of them are able to walk, even if they are living close to the store,” he said. “They are driving.”

Even the teenagers usually too fashionable or cool to cover their trendy duds with coats or sweaters were bundled up.

“Today, I didn’t see any T-shirts,” Ajina said. “They all wore jackets.”

Daily Staff Writer J.K. Perry contributed to this report.

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