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Be prepared for possible power outages as winter storm approaches

Xcel Energy has some tips to prepare for the winter storm headed to Colorado.

DENVER — This weekend's storm has the potential to bring several feet of heavy wet snow and that has Xcel Energy preparing by bringing in extra crew members and offering tips for homeowners and businesses.

The type of snow that's often seen this time of year has the potential to break tree limbs and damage power lines even in smaller amounts than what's predicted this weekend.

> The video above compares the 2003 storm to the one headed our way this weekend.

Xcel said Thursday it has a little more than 100 extra electric workers on standby. 

"That is over and beyond what we normally have in Colorado," said Hollie Velasquez Horvath, senior director of state affairs for Xcel Energy. 

Velasquez-Horvath said Xcel also has "hundreds" of contractors on standby and is working with neighboring utilities to coordinate restoration efforts if/when power outages occur as a result of the storm.

RELATED: Remembering the Denver blizzard of March 2003

At this time, Velasquez-Horvath said average restoration times are hard to predict, and it all depends on the damage of the system. However, Xcel is confident customers will not have to experience rolling outages. 

"Systems have rolling outages when we have maxed out on the energy that we have," she said. "Our system is very strong in storms we know that, we built it to respond in Colorado weather." 

While Xcel said they're confident the system can handle the storm, they are still encouraging customers to conserve energy.

Ways to conserve: 

  • If your home uses heat, adjust your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower. 
  • Open drapes and blinds to maximize heat from direct sunlight.
  • Run ceiling fans in a clockwise direction to push warn air down from the ceiling.
  • Keep interior doors open to help circulate air more freely and maintain constant heating levels.
  • Operate appliances such as electric space heaters, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, during early morning and late evening hours. 
  • Limit the opening and reopening of refrigerators.

Reporting outages

Xcel customers can report outages in the following ways:

  • Xcel Energy mobile app available on iOS and Android
  • Online at xcelenergy.com/out
  • Text ‘OUT’ to 98936 to report an outage, or text STAT to the same number to check the status of a power outage.
  • Call 1-800-895-1999 and follow the prompts—the automated phone reporting system lets customers report outages in less than 60 seconds. Once the cause of the problem is identified, the system or an Xcel Energy representative will provide customers with an estimated restoration time

Home emergency kits

Xcel Energy recommends assembling an easily accessible kit that can be used in the event of a power outage. Useful items may include:

  • Xcel Energy phone numbers - 1-800-895-1999 for residential or 1-800-481-4700 for business
  • Battery-powered radio or television
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Back up phone chargers
  • A phone that does not require electricity
  • Non-electric alarm clock
  • Bottled water and nonperishable food
  • Manual can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Extension cords (for partial outages)
  • Manufacturer's instructions on how to manually open power-operated doors (e.g., garage doors)

RELATED: CDOT: Avoid traveling in Colorado this weekend

Heat safety

More than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year in the United States, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

  • If using a space heater, inspect it for cracked or broken plugs and connections; especially if it has not been used in a while.
  • Don’t use them if they are frayed, worn, or damaged
  • Never leave a space heater unattended. 
  • Turn it off when leaving a room
  • Don’t go to sleep with a space heater on

Food safety (in the event of a power outage)

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food safety is directly related to the temperature of the food. To maintain refrigerator and freezer temperatures, keep doors closed as much as possible.

A full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures for approximately two days and a half-full freezer approximately one day

Other safety tips

  • Keep ice and snow off your natural gas meter and external appliance vents to avoid the dangerous buildup of natural gas. Gently remove any accumulated snow or ice by hand and make sure to maintain a clear path to the gas meter so it’s accessible for service or emergencies.
  • Stay away from downed power lines. Always assume an electric line, even one that is on or near the ground, is energized and therefore dangerous. If you come across a downed power line, leave the area and report it immediately by calling 1-800-895-1999.

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