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West-central Minnesota city warming back up after overnight gas outage

The city of Paynesville lost its natural gas service Tuesday afternoon after the gas main that served the entire town was accidentally severed by a contractor. CenterPoint Energy had to shut off service to every customer, about 1,400 properties, repair the main and then turn on each individual customer's service.

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PAYNESVILLE, Minn. — It was a slightly chilly night Tuesday for residents in Paynesville as the entire town was without natural gas service after the main gas line was severed Tuesday afternoon.

A contractor doing excavation work near Minne Street and Washburn Avenue Nov. 19 inadvertently caused the outage, cutting service to about 1,400 customers.

"They accidentally cut the 6-inch steel natural gas main," said Ross Corson, spokesperson for CenterPoint Energy, adding the contractor was not working for CenterPoint.

CenterPoint activated its emergency response plan and sent crews and technicians to Paynesville to help repair and restore service. About 100 workers were sent to Paynesville.

"We sent all the resources we could," Corson said. "There are a lot of CenterPoint Energy vehicles and people in Paynesville."

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Corson said at first a perimeter and evacuation took place near where the main was cut but was lifted a short while later.

Before repair work on the main could begin, CenterPoint technicians had to go to each individual property serviced by the cut main, and shut off the gas service valve, usually located on the outside gas meter. This was done for safety reasons.

Crews were able to repair the main by 2:45 a.m. Wednesday. It required cutting out the portion of main that had been damaged, replacing it with a new section, welding the pieces together and repressurizing the line.

Once the main was repaired, CenterPoint began the process of restoring service to the city, a job that was still ongoing late Wednesday morning. Technicians had to go door to door, to not only reopen the property's gas service valve, but enter the properties to check all the natural gas appliances and relight pilot lights. If no one was at the property, CenterPoint staff will visit several times and leave contact information if needed.

"We're moving very quickly to restore gas service," Corson said.

Thankfully, the weather cooperated and it wasn't too cold for those without heat. The overnight low in Paynesville was about 33 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

The gas outage affected not only residents but businesses as well. According to CenterPoint's Twitter page, the utility provided portable gas supply overnight to medical and senior living facilities.

Restaurants with gas-powered stoves and ovens were unable to serve customers Tuesday evening and work was interrupted at the Associated Milk Producers Inc. plant in town.

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"They had to shut down for a while," said Paynesville Mayor Jeff Thompson. "It was a little more than a minor inconvenience."

Thompson said CenterPoint has been doing a great job and it is hoped everyone will be back online as soon as possible.

"Fortunately, they were able to move quickly," Thompson said.

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