Bitter cold, natural gas shortages, shutter auto plants

Auto plants and other big energy users throughout Southeast Michigan are shutting down or limiting operations due to a natural gas shortage caused by a fire and record cold temperatures.

Eighteen factories and other facilities run by General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler are affected Thursday. It’s not clear when they’ll resume normal operations.

The fire hit a Consumers Energy natural gas compressor station north of Detroit on Wednesday as record-cold temperatures swept over the region.

The utility says gas flow from the station was shut off, putting Michigan residents at risk of brief service interruptions with wind chills below zero.

The affected plants are in the Detroit area as well as Lansing, Saginaw and Bay City, Michigan. Facilities served by the region’s other utility, DTE Energy, are not affected.