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Minnesota Weather: Xcel Asks Gas Customers To Lower Thermostats To 63

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Xcel Energy has asked its natural gas customers in Minnesota to turn down their thermostats and reduce their natural gas use in order to avoid over-straining the power company's natural gas system.

"With extremely cold temperatures anticipated to continue into tomorrow morning, Xcel Energy is asking our Minnesota customers to help conserve natural gas so our gas system can continue to operate well for customers across the state," the company said Wednesday afternoon. "The best way to help is to temporarily reduce your thermostat setting to 63 degrees if possible through Thursday morning (9 a.m. or later). This step can help ensure that all of our customers continue to have gas service during this bitterly cold weather."

Xcel Energy says residents' cooperation is critical to prevent widespread natural gas outages. The company also suggests using electric space heaters.

The company also warns of the potential for gas leaks in the cold weather.

"As an important safety reminder, if customers ever detect a sulfur or rotten egg smell inside or near their home, it could be the odorant that we put in natural gas to help detect leaks. If they notice that smell, leave home immediately," Xcel Energy said.

WCCO's Reg Chapman said shortly before noon Wednesday that Xcel Energy is asking customers in parts of the state to lower thermostat to 55 degrees.

An interruption in the natural gas system occurred on Tuesday around 10:30 p.m. in Baldwin Township, leaving 152 homes with little defense against the frigid cold.

As soon as Scott Gillespie woke up on Wednesday morning, he knew something was wrong.

"We don't have any hot water and I thought was something [has] frozen up," Gillespie said.

A quick check of social media revealed he was not alone.

"Keeping the dogs inside, keeping the kids under the blankets. Thank God they didn't go to school today," Gillespie said.

Baldwin Township lies on the edge of Xcel's coverage area, and more demand than supply taxed the system.

Using a wood-burning stove and heaters provided by Xcel, Gillespie will brave Wednesday night at home along with his family.

Impacted customers have been provided hotel rooms while Xcel Energy works to restore service. The utility is also providing affected customers with space heaters.

If you are one of the affected residents, to secure a hotel room please contact one of these hotels listed below (all rooms booked under Xcel Energy):

• 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 Energy says it has established a command center at AmericInn in Princeton and will be contacting licensed plumbers to protect plumbing while service is being restored.

Lance Johnson took the utility company up on its offer for a hotel stay.

"I didn't notice until 4 in the morning when I got up to go to work, it was about 52 degrees," Johnson said.

His kids are enjoying the break from the cold reality at the indoor pool.

"They feel like they're in Florida or something" Johnson said.

He spent the day going back and forth between his home and the hotel, doing everything he can to ensure there's no lasting damage when the service is restored.

"I've got like five electric heaters in the house, so I think it's going to be fine," Johnson said. "I got the house up to like 60 degrees right now."

Xcel hopes to have that service restored to the homes impacted by Thursday, but it could be Friday, depending on the weather.

In the metro, power has been restored to most Minnesotans after more than 7,000 lost power in the metro Tuesday evening. Xcel Energy blamed equipment failures on power poles.

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

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