By Mary McGuire


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On the night before Halloween, Scott Gillespie is preparing for something other than trick-or-treaters.

“My wife is from Tennessee. She really likes the warm weather. She likes it 86 degrees in the house, so we keep a fire most of the winter,” said Gillespie.

He’s chopping enough firewood to last his family the entire winter after what they experienced earlier this year.

“We woke up and it was cold, so I’m thinking the heat is out. Something is wrong with the heater. This is not a good day for that because it’s minus 40,” said Gillespie.

WCCO first interviewed Gillespie in January. He was among the 150 homeowners near Princeton who lost natural gas service during the Polar Vortex. During one of the coldest snaps in recent memory, Xcel Energy made the decision to cut service to the area to reduce pressure on the rest of the system.

READ MORE: Why Did Princeton Residents Lose Natural Gas During The Polar Vortex?

“When you have temperatures that cold and you have that many customers cranking on their thermostats, that much more volume or load goes away,” said John Marshall, Xcel Energy’s director of community relations.

While the heat was out, Xcel provided hotel rooms and space heaters to keep customers warm.

Over the summer, crews made $7 million in of upgrades and renovations to 13 miles of natural gas lines across the Upper Midwest.

“We changed some of the modeling that we have that really feeds on how we design and build and maintain our gas systems. We’ve taken some pipes and gone from 2 inch to 4 inch, some from 4 inch to 6 inch,” said Marshall.

With a better system in place, the utility company is satisfied an outage won’t happen again.

“If we see historic lows like we did this last system, we are very confident heading into this winter that the system is going to hold up,” said Marshall.

Ahead of the snowy months, Xcel Energy is reminding homeowners of winter safety tips.

Mary McGuire

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