Cold Weather and Gas Shortages Close Auto Plants in MI

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Dangerously low temperatures across the US forced several automakers, including General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, to halt production at some of their plants.

On Wednesday night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked everyone in the state's lower peninsula to turn their thermostats down to 65 degrees.

Around 4:30 Thursday, Consumers Energy said they could give the all clear - effective Friday at midnight.

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. The facility provides 64 percent of Consumers' natural gas supply. Temperatures in MI were at their lowest levels of the week, with readings around negative 12 degrees in the Detroit area and at bitterly cold levels statewide.

General Motors agreed to shut down more than 11 facilities in Flint, Lansing, and Orion Township, as well as asking thousands of workers at the Warren Tech Center to work from home through at least Friday. GM has halted production at four assembly facilities and seven support centers, while Ford has reduced energy use at its four plants powered by Consumers, Crain's Detroit Business reports. "All employees should plan to return to their work sites on Monday morning, February 4".

Poppe credits residential customers and large industrial users that stopped operations with stepping up to help ensure people have heat.

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"While we're expecting some relief later in the week from the polar vortex, it's important that the electrical grid get help from our customers today", Executive Director of Generation Optimization Christy Wicke said in the statement. The station is responsible for about one-fifth of the state's natural gas storage supply. Automakers usually can make up for a few lost production days by increasing assembly line speeds.

Other businesses also have been affected.

Temperatures in the state early Thursday fell to their lowest levels of the week, with readings around negative 12 degrees (negative 24 degrees Celsius) in the Detroit area and at bitterly cold levels statewide.

In a Facebook post, the energy provider says it's "cautiously optimistic" that its calls for conservation are helping the cause and the Macomb County compressor station is now partially in service.

The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known. Natural gas is stored underground and reserved in these fields, which are activated when energy demand requires it.