Watch out for downed power lines during anticipated Denver-area snowstorm

Snowstorms are known to have toppled trees and downed powerlines, creating sometimes dangerous, even life-threatening, situations. The upcoming weekend snowstorm has the potential to be destructive and dangerous, according to forecasters.

Xcel Energy and communications companies, including Comcast and CenturyLink, are preparing  for the impending weekend storm.

“We are monitoring the current winter storm moving into the Denver area. Our network is fully operational at all sites, and emergency generators are in place should we lose commercial power,” said Jeremy Jones, a CenturyLink spokesman. “We’re prepared to run on fuel and battery resources as long as refueling resources are available to us.”

Energy and communications service providers are gearing up with additional crews and resources, with plans to avoid interruptions in service if possible.

“Our top priority is to ensure all customers have access to heat and electricity so they can stay safe,” said Michelle Aguayo, an Xcel Energy spokeswoman. “We are closely monitoring this storm as it develops and are actively putting plans in place, including increasing the crews dedicated to working as quickly and safely as possible to restore power if there are outages.”

Experts recommend several safety precautions the public can take during the storm, including the following Q&A scenarios:

I’ve spotted a downed powerline, what should I do?

Don’t go near it, instead keep a safe distance and call Xcel Energy at 800-895-1999. If the down line is an emergency situation, someone is injured or it has sparked a fire, call 911.

What if the line is down, but it looks harmless?

Never approach a downed powerline, Xcel Energy says. “Always assume that they are energized and extremely dangerous.” Touching a live line, or anything near it, like a fence, a puddle, a vehicle, can cause electrocution, leading to critical injuries, even death.

What if I’m inside a vehicle and a powerline has fallen onto it?

If possible, wait inside the vehicle until help arrives. The metallic enclosure of the vehicle conducts an electric charge to the ground, leaving the inside shock-free, according to safety experts. Should a fire break out, or a life-threatening emergency arise, leap clear of the vehicle, landing with your feet together. “Don’t hold the door while leaping, and once on the ground, hop or shuffle away,” according to Xcel Energy.

As with downed powerlines, people encountering fallen trees, snapped branches and distressed or sagging limbs because of snow, should think safety first, experts say.

What if a tree branch is contacting a powerline?

Don’t go near it, and don’t attempt to remove it yourself. Again, contact Xcel or your utility company.

What if a tree branch has damaged my home or roof?

Call a professional tree service company, a construction contractor or your fire department if the branch has gone through your roof or damaged your home.

What if a downed tree is crossing a sidewalk or roadway?

Call your municipal public works department if it’s not a danger. If the fallen tree is causing a roadway danger, alert your local fire or police department.

Should I shake branches or hit them with a broom to unload snow and ice?

No, say the experts. Don’t stand under a snow- or ice-loaded tree, even if wearing protective gear. Falling snow and ice is unpredictable and heavy. Let snow and ice melt naturally. Snow and ice can be cleared from branches of small trees or shrubs if its not above your head. Use a broom to gently knock off the snow or ice. If it doesn’t come off, leave it alone. Don’t whack branches, which are brittle in the cold.

Should I clear small fallen branches from walkways and paths?

Yes, it’s a sensible and safe precaution. Clear a pathway to your front door.


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