Cold weather

The recent bouts of cold weather that have hit many parts of the United States have sapped the nation's natural gas supplies. That shortage prompted California's power grid operator to ask for voluntary power conservation on Thursday. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press / January 6, 2014)

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California hasn't completely escaped the effects of the polar vortex.

Although the Golden State avoided the freezing snowfalls that affected regions farther east, power plants in the Southland are now grappling with low supplies of natural gas brought on by cold weather that won't quit.

That has prompted the state's electric power grid operator, known as the California Independent System Operator, to issue a Flex Alert asking for voluntary energy conservation on Thursday until 10 p.m.

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The operator, which normally issues such alerts during the hot days of summer when air conditioners are on full blast, is working closely with California gas companies to ensure "the reliability of the electric and gas systems in California."

Any reduction in gas consumption on Thursday, the notice continued, will help ensure that Southern California has sufficient supplies to get through the day.

January's polar vortex and deep freeze produced record demand for natural gas around the country as people turned up the thermostat and heated their homes. Snow and cold weather again descended this week onto parts of the Northeast and Midwest.

[Updated 11:15 am: Southern California Gas said it is taking "proactive measures and asking customers to preserve energy."

"We do not anticipate any disruption to natural gas service for residential customers," the company said in a statement.]

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