MINNEAPOLIS — Xcel Energy is urgently asking all customers to reduce their natural gas usage after our severe cold snap placed what the company calls "a significant strain" on its natural gas system.
The utility provider asked Minnesota customers to temporarily reduce their thermostat settings to 63 degrees, if possible, through Thursday.
The utility provider first made the urgent request to residents from a number of north metro communities, in a message posted on the company's website.
"We are experiencing a significant strain on our natural gas system due to extreme weather conditions. We need those in Becker, Big Lake, Chisago City, Lindstrom, Princeton, and Isanti to reduce use of natural gas."
Xcel asked those communities to turn down their thermostats and avoid the use of other natural gas appliances including hot water.
Xcel sent out an update at about 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, expanding the request to all customers, but saying they can keep their thermostats a little higher, at 63.
"As an important safety reminder, if you ever detect a sulfur or rotten egg smell inside or near your home, it could be the odorant that we put in natural gas to help detect leaks," they said in their statement. "If you notice that smell, leave your home immediately. Do not turn any electrical devices on or off, do not use a garage door opener, and never use any phone until you are outside and away, then call us at 1-800-895-2999. In a life-threatening emergency, call 911."
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Xcel Community Relations Manager Mark Osendorf says there was a stoppage in natural gas service for 152 customers in and around the city of Princeton around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. It's estimated most will have their gas back on as early as Thursday, and if not, by Friday. But Osendorf says it's not like an electrical outage where a switch is flipped and power is restored. Before homeowners can return, Xcel crews or contractors will need to turn off gas supply lines or ensure all the gas/air has been removed from the line at the meter outside customer homes. Technicians will then return to relight pilot lights on furnaces and appliances when it is safe to do so.
"We are under an extreme weather event here in Minnesota, we haven't seen temperatures like these in more than two decades. It has put a test on our natural gas system, and unfortunately there was an area where we just weren't able to maintain pressure, the system was not able to respond accordingly," Osendorf reflected.
The company has established a command center at the AmericInn in Princeton to help those with no heat find shelter, answer questions, and provide space heaters so the pipes in their homes won't freeze.
Xcel has also engaged the Emergency Management teams from both Sherburne and Mille Lacs Counties, to go door to door and check on the welfare of residents in the outage areas. They will make sure conditions are safe, offer space heaters to prevent homes from freezing up and remind homeowners and renters of resources available to help.
To ensure the safety of impacted customers while their gas is turned back on Xcel has secured hotel rooms in a number of local communities.
- AmericanInn, 910 Run River Road, Princeton (34) 1-763-389-9312
- CountyInn, 18894 Dodge Street Northwest, Elk River (28) 1-763-241-6990
- Super 8, 21130 134th Ave N, Rodgers (25) 1-763-333-0253
- America Best Value, 16776 198th Ave, Big Lake, MN (17) 1-763-262-7666
- Best Western, 89 Chelsea Rd, Monticello, MN (20) 1-763-271-8880
- Run River Motel, 510 19th Ave N, Princeton, MN (11) 1-763-389-3120
Xcel says it is contacting licensed plumbers to protect pipes from freezing while gas service is being restored to impacted homes. Residents are asked to leave faucets running at a trickle, with cabinet doors open and doors and windows closed to retain any heat that remains in those homes.
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