Freezing Minnesotans Putting "Significant Strain" On Natural Gas System; Hotel Rooms Offered Amid Outage

Residents in central Minnesota braving a historic cold snap of minus 21 degree s are being urged to turn down their thermostats and reduce how much natural gas they use, according to CBS Minnesota. The announcement by Xcel Energy is due to the extreme weather conditions which have put a "significant" strain on their natural gas infrastructure. 

"We need those in Becker, Big Lake, Chisago City, Lindstrom, Princeton, and Isanti to reduce use of natural gas. Until further notice, you are urged to turn down your thermostat to 60 degrees or lower and avoid the use of other natural gas appliances including hot water," reads a statement by the utility. 

The warning comes after a Tuesday interruption in natural gas at around 10:30 p.m. in Princeton, leaving around 290 customers without gas service. The company expects to restore service on Thursday, and has rented hotel rooms for impacted customers until then. 

Xcel Energy has established a command center at AmericInn in Princeton, and will be sending licensed plumbers to protect plumbing while service is being restored, according to CBS Minnesota

Meanwhile, power was restored to over 7,000 metro-area Minnesotans after power went out Tuesday evening. The outage was blamed on equipment failures on power poles. 

Wind chills in the region will remain in the 35 to 50 below zero range Wednesday afternoon, while the air temperature is expected to drop to around 30 below overnight. According to the National Weather Service, this is a life-threatening situation for those spending any prolonged period outdoors without proper clothing. A wind chill warning remains in effect until 9 a.m. on Thursday. Of note, frostbite is possible in less than five minutes of exposure.

Schools, stores, restaurants, museums and businesses across the Twin Cities region are shutting their doors or sending employees home early, while the US Postal Service has suspended deliveries on Wednesday in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.