Several Pierre residents are back in their homes after a natural gas leak prompted an evacuation.The Pierre Deputy Fire Chief says an outdoor gas meter malfunctioned after being covered in a snow drift, and some natural gas started seeping back into a home. But energy officials say there are ways you can stay safe.

Willy Hoff knows the snow in his yard is piling up, but hasn’t thought about what it’s doing to his gas meter.

“I guess I’ve never been concerned about it,” Hoff said.

But officials with NorthWestern Energy say it’s something you should be concerned about – snow-buried gas meters are dangerous.

“We have either gas piling up, coming off the roofs as the snow is falling, or we have drifting that occurs on either side of the house,” Bleau LaFave with NorthWestern Energy said.

If your gas meter freezes up, it could stop the flow of gas inside your home. Or even worse, it could freeze open – letting too much gas inside at one time.

“It could cause a gas leak, or a failure of an appliance, which could cause an explosion,” LaFave said.

To help prevent that from happening, LaFave says to keep an eye on your meter and make sure it’s clean.

“Brush off the meters and the regulator, ensuring that they are clear of snow and ice. Now, in these situations, we’d hope you not use an ice pick or not chop at the meter itself. Just dust off the snow and ice,” LaFave said.

It’s a simple step that could save your life.

The official also says if your meters are blocked, meter-readers may not be able to read them properly. And that could result in inadvertent, improper billing.If you think you smell natural gas in your home, call 911.