FORT SMITH, Ark. — Small businesses and manufacturing companies are still without natural gas Wednesday (Feb. 17) in the River Valley after the Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp. (AOG) reduced the supply to businesses in hopes to conserve energy during the winter storm.
Melissa Defries, owner of South 28 Boutique in Fort Smith, told 5NEWS that she received a text message around 5 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 16) saying her store's gas supply would be turned down, leaving her confused on whether it would be completely turned off or not.
Defries says she didn't fully understand the situation until watching news reports about AOG's plan to conserve energy, and that's when she began to panic.
She has been snowed in like many residents in the River Valley and could not go check and see if her store had been damaged by frozen pipes bursting or other weather-related incidents.
Defries says she is willing to do her part to conserve energy but wishes she would have gotten an early notice from AOG.
She plans to have the water turned off to her businesses to avoid any flooding from bursting pipes as temperatures begin to warm up this weekend.
Defries says if her stores do flood, she will be without income for months, something she and other local businesses can not afford right now following the troubles 2020 brought.
"You know with all of the damage that has just been continuing to pile on, being the pandemic and then slammed with the snowstorm, like how much more can small businesses be expected to stand up and say "hey we can do this"," Defries told 5NEWS.
As small businesses continue to stay closed over the next few days, Defries asks that if you know a small business owner and have an extra space heater, please show your support and drop one off or help in any way you can.
Defries told 5NEWS she received another text message from AOG saying they expected to turn gas back on for businesses on Friday (Feb. 19).
Utility companies across Arkansas have had to make disruptions to their services this week following an unprecedented winter storm that's blanketed the region with snow and brought record low temperatures. A tough decision that's left many people in the cold, but necessary to prevent widespread damage to their structures that would lead to large disruptions of service.
5NEWS has reached out AOG for comment on the situation but has not heard by yet.