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500 remain without service after natural gas outage

Natural gas service has been restored to 3,100 of the 3,600 CenterPoint Energy customers in Morris, Hancock and Benson left without service since Friday afternoon.

CenterPoint is down to 500 customers still without service, many whom were not home over the weekend. CenterPoint representative Becca Virden said technicians had been to each of the 500 remaining homes at least twice trying to gain access to relight pilot lights.

If your service has still not been restored, the phone number to call is (612) 372-5050.

Virden said some of the customers without service are "snowbirds" who have already left the area for the winter season. Virden said that if residents know neighbors are gone, it would help to contact them about the incident so CenterPoint can restore their service.

Virden emphasized that the work of local law enforcement and elected officials helped the restoration process go smoothly.

"You are very fortunate to have the police, fire, and public officials you have. This restoration went very smoothly," said Virden. "We can't say enough. They went the extra mile for us."

The outage was caused after a piece of farm equipment hit a Northern Natural Gas pipeline (Northern) Friday afternoon. Northern is CenterPoint Energy's natural gas supplier. Stevens County Sheriff Randy Willis said the farmer was laying tile in a farm field when the line was hit. The incident is still under investigation.

More than 100 technicians were in the area over the weekend trying to restore service. Extra technicians will remain in the area through Monday and Tuesday to continue restoring service.

For safety reasons, the company urges customers not to turn any valves or tamper with the natural gas meter. Opening or turning any valves could allow air to enter the natural gas lines, which would hinder the re-pressurization process.

If someone smells natural gas inside or outside the home, they should follow these steps:

• Leave the area immediately and on foot

• Don't do anything that could cause a spark (turning on lights, driving a car, etc.)

• Call CenterPoint Energy gas leak emergency-24-hours @ 1-800-296-9815 and 911 from a safe location.