01/28/2013 01:00 EST | Updated 03/30/2013 05:12 EDT

N.W.T. town restoring gas to homes after morning failure

Imperial Oil has started to restore natural gas to some homes in the Town of Norman Wells, N.W.T., after a power outage caused the company's plant to shut down early Monday morning.

Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for the company, said employees are still working to get the plant fully up and running and the natural gas service is not yet at full capacity. However, he said around 2 p.m. MT, residences which rely on the service were starting to get heat.

The town is working with residents to re-light furnaces and ensure they're working properly.

Monday morning, the town ordered the evacuation of some buildings, and homes were without heat as temperatures fell to below –40 C.

Mayor Gregor Harold McGregor has declared the town to be in a state of emergency. McGregor said that will stay in effect until at least 4:30 p.m. MT. He said officials had been preparing to fly people out of the town, but as of about 4 p.m., he said he doesn't expect to have to resort to that anymore.

Seniors in the town of 800 were moved to a daycare, which is heated by diesel fuel, while other residents were instructed to head to the town's school.

School was cancelled, and offices were closed.

McGregor said teams were going door-to-door to give residents information and to drain water from tanks and lines to try to prevent them from freezing.

McGregor added that about half the town's residents are affected. Many homes began to cool off around mid-day.

"I just went home to check my own house, and it hadn’t dropped any temperature yet," said McGregor at about 11:30 a.m.

Rolheiser said a power outage at 3 a.m. Monday caused the field and plant facilities to shut down. That facility provides natural gas and electricity to the town.

“Efforts to restart those facilities are currently in progress, and we’re marshaling every resource we can to restart our facilities safely and to as quickly as possible restore the facilities that provide natural gas and electricity service,” he said.

Rolheiser said they do not know what caused the power outage.

The town is currently using its backup electricity supply.

Some homes in the town do have alternative sources of heat, but most buildings are served by natural gas.

McGregor said he contacted local airlines to advise passengers against travelling to the town today unless they have to.

"We didn’t need more people in town, really, you know," he said.

The temperature in Norman Wells was –38 C at 3:45 p.m. MT, with Environment Canada estimating that with the wind chill it felt like –43 C.