MINNEAPOLIS - Xcel Energy says natural gas flows are increasing following a major pipeline explosion Saturday, and adds that requests for customers to conserve could be lifted sometime Monday.

The pipeline ruptured just south of Winnipeg, causing crews to shut down two other pipelines nearby to be safe. The move left thousands of people across the midwest without heat.

"If you have three major pipelines go out this time of year, it causes a lot of stress on the system," said Kent Larson of Xcel Energy. "It's something we hardly ever see."

Those three lines are the main source of natural gas to more than 100,000 people in northwest Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin, and many of them were forced to leave their homes in below zero temperatures.

"We know it's going to be about 25 below (Sunday night) in North Dakota, which is extremely cold," Larson said. "So we know there's going to be a lot of demand on the system."

That's why Xcel Energy and several other companies are asking customers throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin to help. They want residents to turn down their thermostats to 60 degrees and avoid using appliances that need natural gas, saying it'll stabilize the system until the pipeline is fixed. The request doesn't apply to the elderly or to those with medical conditions.

Xcel says if progress continues on the system the conservation request could be lifted later today.