UPDATE: Evacuation order lifted for more homes

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UPDATE 2:56 p.m.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - A new batch of families are being allowed back into their homes on 7th Street.

The evacuation order for homes south of Mesa Avenue has been lifted. Now, just people living between Orchard and Mesa avenues on 7th Street must stay away.

If you are still evacuated, Xcel Energy and Grand Junction Fire Department officials will be holding an update meeting for you Friday, March 22 at 9 a.m. at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 730 Mesa Ave.

The evacuation hotline (970-549-5130) will be open until midnight Thursday, and again starting at 6 a.m. Friday.

For anyone who returned to their house this week, continue to check your toilets and drains. Ventilating the gas out of the sewer system may affect the sewer lines in your house.

If you notice that your toilet isn't flushing correctly-- like the water draining on its own or not refilling-- call 911 to report it. Also call 911 if you smell any gas.

UPDATE 10:20 a.m.
Authorities still aren't allowing some residents to go home as natural gas levels are too high.

Xcel Energy officials must check each home inside the evacuation area; to do this, they need to meet with each homeowner. Officials are asking a resident from each home to report to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 730 Mesa Avenue, as soon as possible to be partnered with an Xcel Energy employee and Grand Junction firefighter. Residents will be given about five minutes to collect any necessary items at that time.

A shuttle service has been set up for those who need a ride. Call the evacuee hotline to have a shuttle sent to you. The number is 970-549-5130.

Xcel Energy officials are expecting the arrival of additional specialized equipment early this afternoon to help remove gas still trapped under the surface. Officials say there are still pockets of gas in the soil and sewer systems which are making it unsafe for residents to return home.

Gas level readings improved overnight, but are still unsafe. Officials say Thursday morning's rain showers were detrimental to ventilation efforts. Wet soil makes it more difficult for gas to dissipate.

There is another briefing scheduled for residents Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Officials will also update the evacuee hotline at that time. It is during that briefing residents will be told whether or not they can go home tonight. Hotel vouchers are still available for those who cannot go home due to high gas levels or lack of power.

The power outage now only affects the homes facing 7th St. between Orchard and Elm Avenues. The evacuation area is the same.

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