Apr 8, 2024 - News

Xcel Energy says it's learning "lessons" after extreme weather prompted power shut off

Illustration of an electrical power tower in the shape of a lightning bolt.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Xcel Energy's unprecedented decision to shut off power lines to scores of Front Range customers as powerful winds swept through the region was due to unique circumstances but it's unclear whether it will turn into a common practice.

Why it matters: The move helped mitigate wildfire concerns, since the high winds — as high as 90 mph west of Interstate 25 — coupled with low humidity, made for dangerous conditions along the foothills.

Driving the news: The decision marked the first time the company took such a dramatic step in Colorado. Director of community affairs at Xcel Andrew Holder tells us it's a step they don't take lightly.

  • Holder said the company learned "some lessons" it hopes to consider when making similar decisions in the future, including how it informs people about potential outages.

What they're saying: Louisville resident Caitlin Murphy says she wants Xcel to improve how it communicates outages. Her power came back on Monday morning, after being cut at 3:15pm Saturday.

  • Murphy says she missed a call from the company on Saturday, called back, and after some waiting, was told her power would be shut off in an hour.
  • She lost groceries without the power, and says she understood why it was done — she was evacuated during the Marshall Fire — but would have liked more time to prepare.

The latest: Roughly 35,000 people were still without power on Monday afternoon, Holder said.

  • The utility company had restored power to more than 206,000 customers as of noon yesterday, and expected to restore it to 90% of customers by Monday night.
  • More than 20 schools in Boulder, Denver and Jefferson counties closed on Monday due to power outages related to the weather.

State of play: Crews have been working to restore power, a lengthy process Holder says requires inspecting every inch of power lines before they can be reenergized.

  • Power is restored through a combination of field workers and control center operations.

By the numbers: The company replaced more than 90 cross arms — the T-shaped structures used to connect power lines — and 47 electrical poles.

  • More than 40,000 feet of wire needed to be repaired. Holder said they did not yet have a cost estimate for the damage.

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