Power Shut Off to 55,000 in Colorado to Prevent Wind-Fueled Wildfires

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A power company in Colorado announced on Saturday that it was cutting power to roughly 55,000 customers over wildfire concerns as powerful winds, some as high as 100 miles per hour, battered the state.

The company, Xcel Energy, said in a statement that it “made the decision to proactively de-energize lines,” which would affect customers primarily in Boulder County and small parts of Broomfield, Douglas, Gilpin, Jefferson and Larimer counties.

The shut-off was expected to start at 3 p.m. local time and last until at least noon on Sunday. The company said that “outages are likely to persist beyond that time frame because crews must physically inspect the power lines.”

“Temporarily shutting power off is intended to prevent our electric system from becoming the source of a wildfire ignition,” the company said.

The National Weather Service in Boulder, Colo., said on social media that winds are expected to increase through the afternoon and evening, with the strongest winds coming between 6 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. on Sunday.

Areas in and near the foothills are expected to experience gusts from 80 to 100 m.p.h. Other areas could experience gusts of 55 to 70 m.p.h.

The Storm Prediction Center warned that the “potential for rapid spread of any new fires that develop” was high, and that “extremely critical fire weather is expected across portions of southeast Colorado into the Oklahoma Panhandle and southwestern Kansas.”

Parts of five states, including Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas, were under fire danger alerts, the center said.

More than 77,000 people were in an area deemed “extreme,” the highest fire risk, while more than 2.9 million people were in areas deemed “critical.”

A part of Interstate 70 was shut down in Kansas because of high winds, low visibility and crashes that were blocking the highway, the state’s Department of Transportation said on social media.

Power failures, broken tree limbs and blowing dust are all expected because of the winds, forecasters said.

People in areas affected by the high winds should “avoid any activity that may produce a spark,” and they should remain indoors if possible, the National Weather Service said.

Xcel Energy said that “turning off customers’ power is not something we take lightly,” noting that it is “a last-resort step that can prove to be a lifesaving measure.”

“Customers who use medical equipment that relies on electrical service should take steps to prepare for extended outages,” the company said.

The South Metro Fire Rescue, which serves approximately 300 square miles of the south metro Denver area, said those who depend on oxygen tanks “should be prepared with enough spare bottles to last through Sunday, or consider staying with family, friends or in a hotel outside of the planned outage area.”

It also advised against using outdoor stoves indoors for heating or cooking.

“If using a generator, keep it outside in a well-ventilated area away from windows,” it said.





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