Xcel working to restore power and heat cut by high wind, wildfires

Xcel Energy Colorado said about 15,000 customers remained without power as a result of Thursday’s catastrophic wind storm and fire in Boulder County, and that 500 employees and contractors are working to restore service ahead of a winter storm expected to drop in temperatures into the single digits.

“This has been an incredibly challenging time for many of our communities, and we are working hard to restore power and natural gas to customers,” said Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy Colorado in a news release. “Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the wildfires, and we are calling in extra hands from across the region and beyond to safely restore service wherever possible. Conditions continue to be challenging, so we thank customers for their patience as our crews continue to work around the clock.”

About 350 Xcel workers and contractors are focused on restoring electricity, which is needed to power the blowers on furnaces, while another 150 are focused on restoring the natural gas needed to provide heat. The gas supply in Louisville and Superior was cut off to prevent additional damage as the Marshall fire enveloped more than 500 homes.

The fire also damaged natural gas distribution infrastructure in the area, and to protect the wider system, Xcel implemented rolling power outages in several mountain counties Thursday night and urged customers in Summit and Grand counties to limit their gas consumption. Power was cut to limit the gas that furnaces consumed and prevent a larger collapse in the distribution system.

About 80% of customers who lost utility service because of the wind storm and fire had it restored overnight, but about 15,000 customers were still without service, the state’s largest utility said.

Although precipitation is desperately needed and will help dampen the remaining flames, the colder temperatures that are coming with the snow raise another set of concerns, said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle at a press conference on Friday morning.

“I know that restoration of power is a major priority,” he said. “We were working closely with Xcel to do quick assessments where we can … to restore power where it is safe.”

Temperatures Friday night into Saturday morning are expected to dip below 10 degrees, raising the possibility of frozen pipes and additional damage to homes lacking utility service.

Another ongoing issue is with the water supply. As homes burned, they started leaking water, which reduced the water pressure needed to fight the flames, Pelle said. Low pressure can lead to infiltration and contamination of the water supply, which has triggered boiled water orders in Louisville and Superior.

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