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The state's Department of Public Safety warns that gas meters, like this one at a residence in northwest Willmar, should be cleared of ice and snow that can block the regulator vent. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Officials remind homeowners, businesses to check gas meters

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ST. PAUL -- State officials with the Department of Public Safety Office of Pipeline Safety urge everyone to check the gas meters on their homes and other buildings to be sure they stay free of ice and snow accumulation that can block the regulator vent.

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"Keeping the entire meter assembly free of snow and ice at all times is the best protective measure," says Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl. "And be gentle. Brush the snow off, don't shovel it. If the meter has ice on it, call your energy company. They have the training and tools to safely open up that vent."

If you heat your home or business or operate appliances with natural gas, you probably have a gas meter on the outside of your building.

The gas meter has a pressure regulator vent that must be unobstructed to work properly. If that vent is sealed, the gas regulator doesn't work, and one of two things could happen. Gas could continue to flow when it shouldn't, resulting in too much pressure and possible gas leaks inside your home, or lack of gas flow could result in loss of service, frozen pipes, and all the other troubles that come with no heat.

Take care when removing snow and ice around your home or building, too, Rosendahl suggests, because piling up snow around a meter can lead to damage -- and heavy snow-removal equipment poses an obvious threat.

"You don't want that meter set damaged by a plow or a skid-steer. Be sure your snow removal contractor knows where it is, and check it often to be sure it's always visible."

Gas meters that ice up regularly are usually below the drip line of a roof, and catch moisture when snow melts and drips. If your meter ices over, plan to do some work at the roofline in the spring, cleaning gutters and setting them up so the meter stays safe year-round.

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