Pipeline explosion leaves some in Midwest without heat

MINNEAPOLIS - When Jim Cristallo's phone rang at his home in Eau Claire at midnight, it was a call he didn't expect.

"Usually when you get a call that late at night its some emergency," Cristallo said.

The emergency was a ruptured pipeline just south of Winnipeg that exploded early Saturday. Crews shut down two other pipelines nearby to be safe, and now thousands of people are 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.

"Bundle up," said Eau Claire County Emergency Management Director Tom Hurley. "If you have a sweatshirt, use it. Turn on a movie, put on a blanket. "

Investigators say there were no injuries at the explosion and the cause is unknown, but they do not think it was criminal.


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