DENVER (CBS4) — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a disaster emergency Sunday in response to an anticipated shortage of propane that could affect thousands of Coloradans who rely on it for heating their homes.

The shortage could affect 33,000 residents living in 20 counties in the southern half of the state, according to a press release from the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“These customers may not be able to receive enough propane to heat their homes in the near future,” the press release continued.

The shortage is blamed on “production issues” earlier this month.

“The propane industry attempted to address the issue with rationing and other means,” the press release stated, “however propane shortages continue. Further, expected extreme winter weather over the coming weeks will increase demand for propane used as a winter heating fuel.”

No more information specific to the nature of the “production issues” was provided.

Propane companies are attempting to compensate for the shortage by importing supplies of propane from out of state. However, those shipments, coming by road, are not expected to arrive in time to sufficiently resupply rural Colorado’s customers.

The governor’s order supports the resupply efforts by temporarily relaxing some regulations for companies and their truck drivers who are putting in extra time to combat this shortage in particular. The regulations suspend restrictions on driver hours for interstate delivery. No other safety regulations are changed, and this suspension of drivers’ service regulations ends Jan. 8, 2019.

Several state agencies, including the Colorado Energy Office, the office of Emergency Management, and the Colorado State Patrol, met early last week to evaluate the potential impacts of the shortage. Those agencies also received input from the Colorado and New Mexico Propane Gas Associations.

“As a result of this coordination,” the state’s press release states, “participating agencies concluded that the shortage did, in fact, present a clear risk to populations dependent on propane for heating.”

The southern half of Colorado is expected to receive the brunt of the next weather system coming to Colorado, starting Tuesday night. Several Winter Weather Warnings are in effect. Snow, high winds, and overnight temperatures in the single digits are expected.

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