Natural Gas outage affects 7,000 in Boulder County; Red Cross opening shelters

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BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Residents in parts of Boulder County lost natural gas Friday morning and many remained without it throughout the frigid night.

Utility provider Xcel expects most customers to have service restored by noon Saturday. An Xcel spokeswoman said the outages were in Niwot, Gunbarrel and southwestern Longmont.

Xcel said about 7,200 customers were affected by the outage.

The utility has called-in additional resources from around the state and from Minnesota, Wisconsin, California and New Mexico.

“With temperatures hovering in the single digits, we want to restart service as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement.

When Niwot resident David Plume saw an Xcel crew pulling up to his home on Friday evening, he thought his wait was finally over.

“I thought that they would come in and turn stuff on,” Plume said.

But before they could turn pilot lights back on, the crews had to turn off the affected gas lines to bring pressure back. That meant a long, cold night was in store for many.

“We turned on all the lights in the house and turned the oven on, kind of kept it low,” Plume said. “Turned on as much energy as we can. We have a few space heaters.”

“We have space heaters pretty much everywhere,” said Gunbarrel resident Dawn Singer. “I can tell you the temperature is 58 degreees (in the house).”

Singer she called a furnace repair company early Friday morning, and quickly realized it was a larger problem.

“They said, that’s curious because you’re the seventh person to call from the Gunbarrell area before 8:00 in the morning,” Singer said.

Xcel has not said what caused the leak.

Customers who lose natural gas should not re-light appliances themselves.

“Not only can your appliances or equipment be damaged by improper re-lights but you can place yourself and your family in danger. Our employees will check your appliances and re-light them for you free of charge,” the company said.

Residents said they were wimply hoping that help will come sooner than later.

“I think we’re okay, but it’s going to get colder as the night goes on,” Singer said.

You can call Xcel at 1-800-295-4999 to provide a cell phone for crews to schedule a time to re-light your appliances.

The Red Cross is opening shelters for people who don’t have heat. One shelter is at Douglas Elementary School in Boulder.

Xcel released a statement Friday afternoon with tips for consumers who lost their natural gas.

If your pipes freeze, avoid using blow torches or open flames to try to heat them. Just yesterday, Dec. 5, 2013, someone caused a fire in a mobile home while using a blow torch to heat frozen pipes. Although no one was injured, the mobile home suffered extensive damage from the fire.

If you have neighbors who are elderly or who are physically/mentally challenged, please check on them to make sure they’re okay. If they are in need of medical attention, call 9-1-1.

If you use a space heater, remember to follow safety guidelines including:

• Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from flammable objects like curtains, furniture and bedding.
• Make sure to keep a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around space heaters and fires.
• Use space heaters only when you’re present in your home or business, and only while you’re awake. Never use space heaters while you sleep.

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