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UPDATED: Melting ice causes gas leak, evacuation of two downtown Bemidji businesses

The smell of gas about 10 a.m. Wednesday prompted the evacuation of Iverson Drug and Dress Club Cleaners in downtown Bemidji. Minnesota Energy Resources workers repair the leak after ice runoff in the back of the building damaged the outside line beside the meter for the businesses. MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER

BEMIDJI – While warmer temperatures were welcomed by most area residents, they also resulted in the closing of two businesses following a gas leak downtown Wednesday.

Ice melting from the roof of Iverson Corner Drug, 408 Minnesota Ave. NW, came into contact with a gas meter already covered with snow plowed on top of it, said Minnesota Energy Resources spokeswoman Pam Sarvela. The collision caused a valve attached to the meter to leak, and shut down the business for five hours Wednesday.

Store owner Paul Iverson said employees smelled gas inside the business about 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“It’s a ‘better safe than sorry’ thing, so I guess that’s good,” he said.

Workers with Minnesota Energy Resources shut down an alley near the business as a precautionary measure, and were concerned that the leak might have developed underground, Iverson said.

“Gas can travel a lot of places I guess,” he said.

The leak also shut down Dress Club Cleaners, 406 Minnesota Ave. NW, for several hours.

Sarvela said it’s important for business and homeowners to maintain a cleared area around gas meters.

“This time it was a combination of snow and ice, but just keeping them clear and free of all debris, is the safest thing,” she said.

Iverson and his employees were able to fill some prescriptions despite the leak, but still had some catching up to do Wednesday afternoon.

“It’ll be busy the rest of the day,” he said. 

Reporter John Hageman contributed to this report. 

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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