The temperature in Aspen, Colorado, will drop to 2 degrees on Tuesday night.
The FBI has joined a criminal investigation into what police said turned out to be a ‘deliberate attack’ on gas service lines in Aspen, Colorado, leaving thousands of residents and businesses without heat as the temperature in the ski mecca reached almost zero has dropped.
Work teams are scrambling to restore gas service, and local authorities on Tuesday handed out electric space heaters to residents who are still without heat, as a storm is forecast this week to 8 inches of snow in the Rocky Mountains region. According to the National Weather Service, it will drop to 2 degrees on Tuesday night in Aspen on Tuesday night.
Aspen police said the apparently coordinated acts of vandalism took place Saturday night at three separate Black Hills Energy gas line sites, one in Aspen and two elsewhere in Pitkin County.
At one of the proposed sites, police said the words “Earth first” were scratched, and investigators investigated the self-described “radical environmental group” Earth! was involved.
Emails from ABC News to the group’s website for comment were not returned.
Aspen assistant police chief Bill Linn told reporters that the saboteurs appeared to have some familiarity with the natural gas system.
‘They tampered with flow lines. They switched off gas lines, ‘said Linn.
Linn said physical evidence found at the scene of the vandalism includes footprints left in the snow. He said there were no security cameras at the three places hit.
The FBI, which has a critical infrastructure unit, is helping with the investigation, Linn said.
Black Hills Energy officials said about 3,500 customers were affected by the gas outage, and that crew members had to go to each natural gas meter to manually turn it off and light the pilot. Officials said work will continue Tuesday, but it is unclear how long it will take before gas service is restored to all.
Linn said the police station is handing out about 6,000 portable space heaters to residents.
He added that numerous businesses, including restaurants and hotels, had to go on strike due to the loss of gas.
“It’s almost an act of terrorism to me,” Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper, who lost heat in her home to vandalism, told The Aspen Times. ‘It’s trying to destroy a mountain community at the height of the holiday season. This was not a national gas mistake. It was a deliberate act. Someone wants to make a statement of some kind. ‘