Xcel Energy is in storm preparation mode. In a release this morning they said they are increasing employees for the weekend in anticipation of heavy snow, ice, and wind that can sometimes cause electrical outages.

Strong winds, combined with ice and snow predicted this weekend can occasionally cause power outages. Xcel Energy understands the inconvenience power outages can cause and prepares for weather that may affect customers in advance. More than 250 employees are available at service centers throughout the metro area, Greater Minnesota and North and South Dakota to quickly and safely restore electric service and additional crews are on standby through the weekend.

“Like many people, we are monitoring forecasts and preparing for anything this storm may bring,” said Troy Browen, director of control center operations, Xcel Energy. “Heavy wet snow combined with ice and freezing rain can affect power lines, and we want to restore any power outages that may occur as quickly and safely as possible.”

Report your outage.

Customers can help Xcel Energy get a jump on power restoration by reporting outages. Customers have a number of ways to report their outage.  Via the Xcel Energy mobile app available on iOS and Android and Online at xcelenergy.com/out. Other ways are:

·         Via text by texting ‘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.

Stay informed

If outages occur, it’s important for customers to have access to the most recent updates about their power restoration. Customers can stay informed by visiting the Xcel Energy website or by downloading the mobile app available on iOS and Android. Additionally, the website hosts an outage map that displays information on the number of customers out and anticipated time for restoration. Customers can also stay informed by following Xcel Energy on Facebook and Twitter.

Other ways customers can prepare, stay safe:

·         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. Never, under any circumstance, touch or move a downed power line. If you come across a downed power line, leave the area and report it immediately by calling 1-800-895-1999.

·         Keep natural gas meters clear. Clearing snow and ice from natural gas meters is key to avoiding the potential for dangerous natural gas buildup indoors due to vents becoming sealed when covered in ice and snow. Xcel Energy strongly recommends keeping the entire meter assembly clear by gently removing snow or ice from the meter, associated piping and the roofline above the meter. Check often to ensure melting snow isn’t dripping on the meter from the roof or nearby trees. Use a shovel around a meter to move snow away; do not use a snowblower near a meter.

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

o    Xcel Energy phone numbers - 1-800-895-1999 for residential or 1-800-481-4700 for business

o    Battery-powered radio or television

o    Flashlights

o    Batteries

o    Back up phone chargers

o    A phone that does not require electricity

o    Non-electric alarm clock

o    Bottled water and nonperishable food

o    Manual can opener

o    First aid kit

o    Extension cords (for partial outages)

o    Manufacturer's instructions on how to manually open power-operated doors (e.g., garage doors)

·         Heating safety. If using a space heater, take care to ensure safety as more than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year in the United States, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International. When using a space heater, make sure the heater has the label showing it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory, and read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels. Additionally, inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs and connections; don’t use it if they are frayed, worn or damaged. Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when leaving a room and don’t go to sleep with a space heater on. Additionally, Xcel Energy offers rebates and incentives to install energy efficient furnaces and insulation.

·         Observe food safety. 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. Visit the USDA website for more information.

Corbis via Getty Images