Consumers: Residents can turn thermostats back up at midnight

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"We don't know when we're going to be able to return to normal operations", said Consumers spokesman Roger Morgenstern.

Midwestern states are experiencing natural gas shortages amid subzero temperatures, including in MI, where GM shuttered more than a dozen plants and told thousands of employees to work from home.

At approximately 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the E.A.S. (Emergency Alert System) was activated to urge all customers to turn their thermostat down to 65 or less through Friday at noon.

Fiat Chrysler closed its truck assembly plants in Warren and Sterling Heights, Michigan, while Ford reduced operations at two transmission factories and a plant that stamps parts for the hot-selling Ford Ranger small pickup near Detroit. Consumers Energy is activating natural gas peaking storage fields in Northville and St. Clair to help deliver natural gas to our customers.

The utility reportedly ran into supply issues due to the record-breaking frigid winter temperatures as well as a fire at a compressor station in Macomb County.

Workers at its Warren Tech Center were also told to stay home on Thursday.

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Editor's note: Both DTE Energy and Consumers Energy are corporate sponsors of Michigan Radio. Facilities served by the region's other utility, DTE Energy, are not affected.

Automakers usually can make up for lost production days by increasing assembly line speeds, but if the plants are closed or limited for a long time, that gets harder.

Consumers Energy said in a statement Thursday that it's "cautiously optimistic" its requests to curb natural gas use are "having a positive effect".

Governor Gretchen Whitmer echoed that request in a video posted on her Facebook page, and Consumers Energy President and CEO, Patti Poppe, also released a video with an urgent request for help reducing demand.

The utility is still asking people to help reduce natural gas use until then after a Wednesday fire at one of its plants - combined with record demand amid bitterly cold weather - led to concerns over the utility's ability to keep gas flowing. While officials were unsure about the cause of the fire, they thanked the public for its response to lowering their thermostats. No one was injured, but all gas flow from the station has been shut off which crews assess the damage and replace safety measures.

DTE Energy, meanwhile, also asked MI customers to help "safeguard the reliability of the regional energy grid" amid the cold by voluntarily reducing electricity use.

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