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Large-scale proactive power safety shut-offs were a first for Xcel Energy in Colorado

Power still not back for some in Colorado, and there's a lot to learn from windstorm
Power still not back for some in Colorado, and there's a lot to learn from windstorm 04:56

Xcel Energy said power was coming back on Monday to 155,000 plus customers who lost electricity in the weekend's vicious windstorm.

"We go from big numbers to small numbers. So we try really hard to repair the larger feeders that have thousands of customers on it, so that we can get them restored quicker," explained Xcel Energy's regional vice president Hollie Velasquez Horvath. "So if a customer is farther down that electric line from the substation it's going to take longer for them to have restored power."


Some customers will be waiting well into Tuesday until power is likely back up, but Xcel said Monday night that 90% of its customers who lost power were back up Monday night.

"We bailed out after two nights in the cold and dark," said Bruce Johnson of Wheat Ridge.

Johnson and his wife Winnie were spending the night at a hotel. They were busy putting ice into their freezer to try and preserve food. Their outage was the result of two trees that fell on lines about a block away. Chris McCune was worried power would go out when he saw the bigger tree coming down.


"By the time I had grabbed the hose the middle of this tree had just exploded like a firework," he said.

The storm was the first time the utility conducted large scale so-called, proactive power safety shut-offs. Before the storm, Xcel Energy said it expected to turn off power to 29,000 customers in predicted severe winds. With winds up to 97 miles an hour, that was expanded Saturday from parts of three counties to parts of six, including Boulder, Jefferson, Broomfield, Gilpin, Larimer and Douglas Counties. Both Xcel and CORE Electric Cooperative adjusted settings so power that was lost due to events like falling limbs would not come back on automatically, but would have to be inspected by crews first, to avoid re-energizing lines and starting fires. There were no major fires.

"There are some areas that if we hadn't shut power off we could have very likely ignited a wildfire," said Velasquez Horvath.

But there was reason for review.

"I don't think that we expected our customers to believe that they were going to have all their power turned off at noon yesterday, and that it was going to take time to inspect the lines and make sure that they were safe before being re-energized. And I think that that's where we you know we could do a better job," she said.

Xcel Energy talked with Boulder County officials Monday and discussed better communications with emergency operations centers as well as more awareness about crucial infrastructure like water treatment facilities and nursing homes as well as businesses and individuals with special medical needs.

Getting power back on was welcome news for people who had been out. But one family in Evergreen was looking at a tree in back of their home that had been uprooted. The power went out Saturday, but a crew showed up and decided to re-energize the line.


"In the event that this tree gives and goes, that power line could very well smack into the house," said Chris Sheets.

Only the live line leading to the house supported the tree. With all of the power that had been turned off, he found it ironic theirs was back on.

"In the name of safety, in the name of fire prevention. Yet this is a major fire hazard that's been left for the past three days."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article indicated CORE Electric Cooperative turned off power proactively. In fact, all of their power interruptions were the result of outages.

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