EVERETT — As the threat of another winter storm looms, it’s a good time to prepare for power outages.
When snow fell earlier this week, about 10,000 Snohomish County Public Utility District customers lost electricity. Most of them were in the Edmonds area, PUD spokesman Aaron Swaney said. Icy roads can cause vehicle crashes, and those accidents sometimes take out power poles. When snow accumulates on tree branches, the added weight stresses them. Add a little wind and the limbs can come down on power lines.
In case it happens again, here are some tips.
Coping at home
If the power goes out at home, it’s also probably out at the nearby market, which makes paying with a credit or debit card a nonstarter — if the store is even open. Do your shopping in advance. It’s a good idea to have a stock of non-perishable foods that don’t need refrigeration or cooking.
If the refrigerator or freezer door isn’t opened often, food inside can keep up to 24 hours. But the general idea is to rely on non-perishable foods that don’t need refrigeration or cooking. (And if it’s cold enough outside, that’s an option if the food is safe from critters.)
A first aid kit might never be used, but if you need it, it’s vital.
Flashlights are preferred over candles, and they should have fresh batteries. If candles are used, don’t leave them unattended.
Make sure cellphones are charged, and have an external battery charged and ready. Or make sure you have the cord or plug you need to recharge in your car.
Recent cold temperatures have reached single digits in some places around Snohomish County, so staying warm is paramount. Close curtains and blinds to help keep heat from escaping through windows. The PUD recommends keeping people together in a small room with few windows. Wear lots of warm clothing in layers for personal heat, and use blankets or sleeping bags.
It is dangerous to bring a generator or grill inside a home. This warning cannot be overstated. They are fire hazards and emit potentially fatal carbon monoxide.
If the inside of a home drops to 55 degrees or lower, Puget Sound Energy suggests opening the faucets a bit. A constant drip can prevent pipes from freezing.
“We have crews out there,” Swaney said, but “there is a chance people could be out for a couple days in this weather.”
Also, prepare for when the power comes back on. When power gets restored, the sudden surge could overload your home’s electrical system and blow a fuse or throw a breaker. So turn off most of whatever is plugged in. Leave on one light as an indicator.
How to report problems
Report your power outage to the proper place:
If you are among the nearly 350,000 Snohomish County PUD customers, call 425-783-1001 or report it online at reportoutage.snopud.com. There is also a live map of outage reports to give you a sense of the problem’s scale and give you estimated time of restoration.
If you are a Puget Sound Energy customer, report an outage online at www.pse.com/outage or with the myPSE app on a smartphone. You’ll need your account information. PSE’s general help line is 888-225-5773. Appliances that use natural gas, such as water heaters, fireplaces, ovens and ranges, should still operate if the electricity is out. Any that use electricity to ignite can be started with long matches.
While it’s important to make sure your utility knows about an outage, don’t call 911 unless you see a power line on the ground near you, Swaney said.
Don’t go anywhere near a downed power line. Call 911. If a line touches a vehicle, anyone inside should stay there until a first responder can get them out.
And while it’s important to make sure your utility knows about an outage, don’t call 911 except to report a danger, like a power line on the ground, Swaney said.