- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - About 100,000 residential customers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin were able to crank their thermostats back above 60 degrees Monday after a utility lifted its appeal for natural gas conservation following a weekend explosion in Canada that knocked out three pipelines.

The Minneapolis-based utility began asking customers on Saturday to conserve natural gas by turning down heat to 60 degrees or cooler and to avoid using gas appliances. Businesses that use natural gas also were asked to conserve.

Xcel said about 100,000 residential customers were impacted in the three states. The request came as the region was hit with dangerously cold weather. The National Weather Service posted a warning for eastern North Dakota early Monday, as wind chills dropped into the minus 30s and 40s.

Xcel spokesman Tom Hoen said the company routinely asked customers to cut electric usage in summer months but the request to cut natural gas use in the winter was rare.

“Customers always have been very good in understanding when we’re asking for conservation because there is a very hard and fast reason for it,” he said.

The company said progress continued Monday on restoring normal natural gas transmission service to its service territory in the Upper Midwest.

State agencies in North Dakota were monitoring natural gas supplies in the eastern part of the state following the explosion over the weekend in the neighboring Canadian province of Manitoba.

State officials, including those with North Dakota’s Department of Emergency Services, have been working with local officials, health care providers and utilities in eastern North Dakota on contingency plans should there be heat shortages, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. The National Guard and Highway Patrol are ready to respond if needed, he said.

“The state is fully committed and prepared to help keep our vulnerable populations safe in the event of heat losses,” the governor said in a statement Sunday night.

Guard commander Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk said clearing highways were a priority with the state in case people have to be moved to another location.

“Plans are in place at the local level to move people,” Sprynczynatyk said. “We have vehicles and personnel to assist in the movement, if asked.”

Xcel said one of the three pipelines that have been out of service was being returned to service and was expected to reach full capacity by Monday afternoon.

Vicki Higdem said she turned down the heat in her home before coming to work at a senior center in Fargo on Monday. She worried a little about her cocker spaniel because he had just had his coat trimmed.

“Buddy just got his haircut,” Higdem said. “Sixty degrees isn’t that cold, I guess. I think he’ll just curl up in his blanket.”

Higdem said most seniors who visit the center in Fargo also likely turned down their heat, as requested.

“I think older people are more loyal than the younger people,” she said. “They can always put more clothes on or a sweater if they have to.”


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