POTOSI, Mo. – Less than two days after thousands of people lost natural gas service and heat for their homes in Potosi, about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis, nearly all had service restored by early Wednesday evening.

There’s been an ongoing gas pipeline replacement project going on in the area for more than a year. Workers ruptured one of the old pipes Tuesday morning.

That led to a race against an expected winter storm to get everyone’s natural gas service restored. The storm arrived Wednesday afternoon. Between 85% and 90% of the people had their service restored by then, according to Potosi Mayor Joseph Blount.

Potosi operates its own natural gas service. Exactly 2,700 to 3,000 residents and workers depend upon it for heat.

The old pipeline is buried less than a foot deep in spots. The old pipes are thin-walled and frail. Workers replacing the old lines ruptured one of them Tuesday morning. They repaired it quickly but restoration teams had to go door-to-door to nearly 900 buildings resetting meters, purging lines, and reigniting pilots.

It would have taken Potosi’s small staff three days or more to complete; but nearby gas companies, including Spire in St. Louis, sent help, more than quadrupling the effort.

The Washington County Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross opened a shelter in a gym at the Potosi Southern Baptist Church. About a half dozen families used it Tuesday night, the pastor said. The shelter remained on standby Wednesday but it was empty and the cots had been removed.