Around 12:30 p.m., a resident of the 4000 block of Xerxes Avenue S. in the Linden Hills neighborhood reported smelling natural gas, said Becca Virden, a spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy. Minneapolis firefighters and CenterPoint Energy crews evacuated residents in the area from W. 39th Street to W. 42nd Street, from Upton Avenue S. to Zenith Avenue S. The city sent Metro Transit buses to help keep residents warm.

“The local residents did the right thing right away,” Virden said, about reporting the unusual smell.

School bus service among at least a half-dozen schools was affected. Students at Southwest High School, 3414 W. 47th St., were held beyond the normal 3 p.m. out time “for safety reasons,” according to district spokeswoman Larissa Chinwah. In a statement, the district apologized for delays in communicating with students’ families about bus issues.

According to Virden, the underground gas leak probably was caused by the freeze-thaw cycle, which made the ground expand and contract, breaking a 6-inch gas main.

Elizabeth Leppart, 24, said crews knocked on the door of her home at W. 40th Street and Xerxes Avenue S. “I thought it was maybe a street cleanup,” she said. By the third knock, Leppart and her boyfriend were told to abandon their cars and just leave.

While there was some confusion early in the evening, just before 7 p.m., after repairs were made and gas levels dropped, residents were allowed to return to their homes.