Xcel Energy: normal service could resume in 24 hours

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- A natural gas pipeline rupture in Canada continues to make an impact Sunday night in the Chippewa Valley as thousands of customers take time to turn down their thermostats in the midst of another chilly night of temperatures.

Around 8 PM Sunday Xcel Energy called customers to thank them for their continued energy conservation efforts. Xcel says one of three natural gas pipelines that have been out of service since an explosion in Manitoba early Saturday was being returned to service and is expected to reach full capacity by Monday afternoon.

“While this is good news, we still need customers to conserve natural gas,” said Kent Larson, Xcel Energy’s senior vice president for operations. “The system won’t be back to normal until the natural gas is delivered to our service territory, and demand remains high due to extremely cold temperatures.

ORIGINAL STORY 8:00 PM 1/26/ 2014: You may have been woken up last night by a call from Xcel Energy asking you to drop your thermometers to 60 degrees.

Xcel Energy says it’s asking 46,000 customers in Eau Claire, Chippewa, Dunn and St. Croix counties to conserve energy following a natural gas pipeline rupture.

We Energies also asked customers in Sparta, Black River Falls, Hixton, Osseo, Augusta, Cadott, Ladysmith, Hayward and Rice Lake to conserve natural gas for the next 72 hours.

Midwest Natural Gas is also asking customers from Richland county north along the Mississippi River to Hudson to cut down on heat.

“Usually when you get a call that late at night its some emergency or something,” Xcel Energy Customer Jim Cristallo said.

It was just after midnight when Jim Cristallo and thousands of other customers received an automated phone message from Xcel Energy asking them to turn down their thermostats to conserve energy.

“Early Saturday morning there was an explosion that ruptured a pipeline in Canada,” Xcel Spokeswoman Liz Wolf Green said.

Xcel Energy says the TransCanada pipeline rupture was unexpected. They say after close examination of the ruptured pipeline the company made the call to customers to conserve.

“We were working closely with that pipeline service provider. It was later in the day that we decided that we needed to do an outbound call to customers and ask them to conserve natural gas,” Wolf Green said.

Xcel says customers turning down their thermostats has made a big difference, but there is still more that needs to be done before going back to business as usual.

“At this point we don't know when customers can return to normal usage, but we are working to keep all of our customers updated with social media and our website,” Wolf Green said.

While energy providers continue to ask customers to cut back, the Eau Claire County Emergency Management Supervisor, Tom Hurley, offered these tips to stay warm.

“Bundle up. If you have a sweatshirt, use it. Turn on a movie, put on a blanket,” Hurley explained. “We aren't asking people to be unsafe. We are not asking for the temperature in your home to be freezing. There isn't the threat of freezing pipes. We are just asking that the public turn down their thermostats slightly.”

Xcel Energy says it will continue to update its customers through its website and social media.

Stay with WEAU 13 News for the latest developments.