By Matt Kroschel

DELTA, Colo. (CBS4) – A disaster declaration issued by Colorado’s governor about a propane shortage is sending mixed messages to thousands of customers across the Western Slope. CBS4’s Matt Kroschel traveled to rural Delta County — one of the 22 counties listed in the emergency declaration.

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Local propane companies are frustrated because they say the information customers received was lost in translation.

As temperatures dip, thousands of people in rural Colorado rely on propane to heat their homes. That’s why the announcement came as a shock, especially to the companies caught off guard. And they have been left to explain what’s really going on to customers.

Sisters Sharon Perry and Sherry Cobb run JC Propane, a company that supplies customers with fuel in five Western Slope counties.

“Our father started this company 21 years ago,” Cobb said.

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Employees have been busy this holiday trying to ease customer fears due to the announcement from the state capital.

“People are very concerned, very much. They are disturbed by the statement that the governor made,” Perry told CBS4.

The emergency declaration allowed delivery drivers to work longer hours to make sure there was enough propane after some local supplies were shut down, but what these sisters say the message most customers heard was that gas is running out statewide.

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“People are afraid that we are having a gas shortage, there is no gas shortage,” Cobb added.

Cobb is a past president of the Colorado Propane Gas Association. She says the declaration was all about making sure there wasn’t a future shortage. CPGA says the local supply points are back up and operating normally and everything should be back to normal within a week or so.

Gov. John Hickenlooper declared a disaster emergency Monday. As part of his declaration, he is relaxing restrictions on how many hours drivers can work.

The entire declaration can be read below:

“Governor John W. Hickenlooper declared a disaster emergency in Colorado due to a propane supply shortage potentially impacting 33,000 propane customers in predominately rural regions. These customers may not be able to receive enough propane to heat their homes in the near future. Hickenlooper issued a verbal executive order just after 11 a.m. on December 24, 2018 due to propane production issues, anticipated severe weather conditions and an ongoing propane supply shortage. The executive order suspends the hours-of-service regulations that normally prevent intrastate drivers of commercial motor vehicles from transporting propane winter heating fuel until January 8, 2019 at midnight. The executive order applies to drivers who are primarily working on this emergency.

Matt Kroschel covers news throughout Colorado working from the CBS4 Mountain Newsroom. Send story ideas to mrkroschel@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter @Matt_Kroschel.

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