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House By House, Heat Restored To Princeton Residents

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Xcel Energy has finally lifted their request to the company's natural gas customers to lower their thermostat to 63 degrees, after some families north of the Twin Cities woke up in hotel rooms Thursday morning.

Xcel's natural gas service wasn't working for 152 homes in Princeton because of the extreme cold.

Starting at noon, Xcel Energy went going door-to-door turning on their natural gas. Xcel contacted all the homeowners, set each home's meter, evaluated the homes, and then lit the pilot lights.

Affected residents were put up in hotel rooms after getting their heat cut off. Demand for natural gas outpaced supply in the rural area, which sits at the edge of the utility's coverage area. Xcel Energy said the outage could have been worse if they were not proactive.

"From a pressure standpoint and from a systems stability standpoint we had to siphon off and really shut off gas service to about 100, 150 customers up here," John Marshall, director of communications with Xcel Energy, said. "Unlike an electrical outage, where power just gets restored and everything's fine, with natural gas we need to do step-by-step, building-to-building visits to make sure that the pilots are turned off, that no natural gas facilities are turned on. So that when we do restore natural gas, everything is safe."

It was good news to Rosemary Balster and her family. The heat was finally on and warming up their house so quickly that the blowing heat fogged up the lens of our camera within seconds.

"We got the heaters from Xcel. We kept the temperature at 62, where they wanted it be anyway. Not too bad," she said.

Breakfast was busy at the AmericInn, where Xcel put up a lot of the people affected. Michelle Kluver told WCCO she did not except to have no heat, but they made due.

"The cold weather, OK, we've done this before. We're Minnesotans. But I did not expect the power, I mean the heat, was going to go out. So my son and husband are at the in-laws," she said.

RELATED: The Deep Freeze Is Almost Over, And Big Weekend Warm-Up Is Coming

As of 10 a.m., Xcel Energy said they were no longer requesting customers to keep their thermostats at 63 degrees. The company said they expect to turn on natural gas to the affected customers at about noon.

It should take a couple hours for homes to go fully back online, as they have to go door-to-door to relight pilot lights.

Xcel Energy said they hope to prevent this from happening in the future.

"Moving forward here we will do a look back and kind of analyze exactly what happened. Think about if there are maybe some reinforcements and some opportunities to to ensure sure that we can maybe prevent this from happening again," Marshall said.

While temperatures might fall a few degrees after sunrise Thursday, warming is expected to start in the morning hours. Additionally, the wind chill warning that's been in effect for the last few days is set to expire at 9 a.m.

Although winds were generally calm overnight, even light breezes could create wind chills as frigid as 60 degrees below zero. In such cold, frostbite can set in on exposed skin in just minutes. Indeed, hospitals in the Twin Cities have seen dozens of frostbite cases since the deep freeze descended on Minnesota.

CenterPoint Energy tells us it is not experiencing issues with its natural gas distribution system and is not asking customers to conserve energy.

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