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3,600 CenterPoint Energy customers from Benson to Morris left without natural gas

MINNEAPOLIS -- Natural gas service to about 3,600 CenterPoint Energy customers from Benson to Morris was disrupted Friday when farm equipment hit a pipeline in the Cyrus area.

The outage includedthe towns of Benson, Hancock and Morris.

According to a news release from CenterPoint Energy, crews were brought in from other parts of the state to respond and were expected to work throughout the weekend to make repairs and restore service.

The outage was caused when a piece of farm equipment hit a Northern Natural Gas pipeline Friday. Northern is CenterPoint Energy's natural gas supplier.

After the incident occurred, the flow of gas was turned off to each customer's natural gas meter, according to Scott Lehner, area manager for CenterPoint Energy.

Crews needed to clear air from the natural gas distribution lines and go from meter to meter to restore gas service to each customer before the relighting process would begin, he said in the news release.

Lehner asked that customers allow CenterPoint Energy employees to have access to each location to light pilots and check to make sure it is safe to resume service.

"For this reason, we'd like to ask that customers be at home if possible so that our employees can go inside to restore natural gas service," Lehner said in the release issued Friday night.

"A customer needs to call us only if there is a door hanger at their home or business indicating that we've already been by to attempt to restore service. Please call the number on the door tag left by our service personnel," he said.

It's anticipated that service will be restored to the majority of customers this weekend if crews have access to relight indoor appliances, Lehner said.

For safety reasons, the company was urging 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 pro-cess.

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.)

- From a safe location, call CenterPoint Energy's 24-hour gas leak emergency line at 1-800-296-9815 and call 911.