As the Melfort region continues to recover from the largest natural gas outage in SaskEnergy’s history, people are sharing their stories on how they stayed warm as indoor temperatures plummeted.
Over 4,500 homes between Melfort, St. Brieux and Kinistano were without heat after a high-pressure transmission line ruptured Wednesday morning. The outage occurred just as frigid weather moved into central Saskatchewan, with Wednesday’s high only reaching -22 C in Melfort.
“It was cold,” Melfort mayor Rick Lang told 650 CKOM.
He said his bowling alley business was without heat from about 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with temperatures dropping close to 0 C as he used space heaters to try and keep water lines from freezing.
“When it’s -30 C outside (with windchill), you can’t mitigate that entirely,” he said.
A daycare in the city also had to be creative to keep staff and children warm.
One of Melfort Daycare Co-operative’s locations lost its heat Wednesday morning, after about 30 kids had already been dropped off for the day.
Board member Janelle Kleiboer said staff moved the children, aged between 18 months and 5 years, to the basement where they could close the doors and use space heaters.
“If they had sweaters, we put them on and made sure they stayed warm and comfortable,” she said.
She added during naptime the kids were given extra blankets and were placed closer together for warmth. When they were awake, staff led activities that involved running to keep their temperatures up.
By noon parents had been asked to come pick their children up, and by 2 p.m. the daycare closed. By the time gas service was restored around 5 p.m., the temperature had dipped to 13 C inside.
“We were looking at possibly flushing our lines in case it didn’t get turned on overnight, so nothing would freeze on us,” Kleiboer said.
Denis Coquet, who lives in St. Brieux, decided not to wait for help getting his appliances fired back up.
“I looked out and saw my neighbour’s chimney smoking, and thought ‘hey, they have gas,'” he said.
After some internet research and discussions with friends, he figured out how to restore his own service within five minutes.
It’s unclear how residents without heat spent the night, with windchills reaching as low as -40 C in Melfort. In the morning, city officials set up a warming shelter at Kerry Vickar Centre.
“We realized that there’s still some people who were dealing with that,” Mayor Lang said.
SaskEnergy reported that they’d gotten to about 80 per cent of affected homes by shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday.
A company spokesperson expected full service to be restored by the end of the day Thursday.