Texas Gas Service, the natural gas utility provider for Travis County and parts of Williamson County, on the morning of Feb. 16 sent out communications to its customers that it is “planning for shortages.”

“Due to the unprecedented, historically low temperatures over an extended period, we are seeing much higher natural gas use coupled with supply issues. As of this morning, our suppliers of natural gas are experiencing freezing gas wells due to the duration of the extreme cold. This is impacting the amount of gas they are able to provide to us,” the company wrote in an email to customers.

On the evening of Feb. 15, Texas Gas Service wrote on its website that its service area, which includes the city of Austin, could see widespread outages.

According to the website, if a customer loses gas service as a result of shortages, it will take an “extended length of time” to get service restored. If a home loses gas service, the utility company is required to visit each home to check for leaks and resume gas service.

“We have no known outages [in Austin,]” TGS Communications Manager Christy Penders told Community Impact Newspaper shortly before noon Feb. 16. “We have been monitoring super closely.”

TGS has asked its customers to reduce natural gas usage inside their homes to help reduce the number of outages in the Austin area.

Gas customers can reduce usage by lowering temperatures on thermostats and water heaters, changing or cleaning the filter on furnaces, sealing windows with blankets or towels, and closing blinds and curtains to preserve energy, according to the Feb. 16 email from Texas Gas Service. Customers are also asked to hold off on using high-energy appliances such as dishwashers and laundry machines.

“We’ll be your excuse not to do chores for another day or so. ... If everyone can lower your consumption a little bit, it’s going to make a big difference for everybody,” Penders said.

If a customer has already experienced an electricity outage, TGS stated customers should turn off their thermostats until power comes back on. Once power is restored, customers are asked to wait 10 minutes to restart their thermostat, which allows the utility company to adjust to the widespread increase in natural gas usage.

The utility company recommends all customers check to make sure all burners are off. If a customer smells natural gas and believes there may be a leak, they are asked to leave the area immediately and call 911 and 800-959-5325. Updates on outages and potential service disruptions can be found on TGS' website.

Note from the writer: This article has been updated to clarify that customers should turn off their thermostats until power returns, not their furnaces as was printed in the original version of this article.