‘Potentially dangerous’ storm moving into area early Wednesday morning

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Local meteorologist Shawn Prochazka is warning of a “potentially dangerous” front moving into the area between 5 and 7 a.m. Wednesday. 

In an email to The SUN, Prochazka wrote, “Expect periods of heavy snow, blowing snow, near whiteout conditions, a thunderstorm or two, and potentially damaging winds. Winds will peak in the 50-60mph range in the valley and 70-80mph range in the mountains. Temps will rapidly drop 10-15 degrees behind the front. Much of the county will get a quick 2” of snow with the mountains getting 4-8” during this period.”

Prochazka’s forecast on PagosaWeather.org also notes that, “The challenging part is how much will be snow and how wet the snow will be.”

The U.S. National Weather Service Grand Junction office warned Tuesday afternoon: “The biggest concern with this system aside from heavy snow potential in the mountains is the potential for snow squalls. Very strong winds will occur this evening ahead of a strong cold front with potential for snow squalls, basically bands of heavy snow with very gusty winds causing whiteout conditions for a brief period of time. The snow squall potential is highest between 2 am and 6 am as the front blasts across the area from west to east. Also, concerned about flash freezes.”

Power outages

Following multiple power outages from last week’s storm, La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) provided the following press release ahead of tomorrow morning’s storm: 

“The snowstorm that hit our area last Thursday brought more outages than LPEA has seen since 2008. At its peak on Friday afternoon, we had more than 10,200 members out of power. As another storm is coming, here are six tips to weather any LPEA outage:

“• When you have an outage, you do not need to call us to report it. With our automated metering infrastructure, we know you have an outage as soon as you do. LPEA prioritizes outages that are large, impact critical infrastructure, or cause a public safety risk. 

“• If you want to receive outage updates via text message or check in on the status of your outage via text, sign up for our Outage Texting Service at https://lpea.coop/ReportOutage with the phone number listed on your LPEA account. Once registered, you can check on the status of your outage at any time by texting ‘STATUS’.

“• For the most up-to-date outage information at any time, day or night, visit our online outage map at http://outage.lpea.coop. It is updated every two minutes.

“• During major outages, LPEA regularly posts updates on our website.

“• Protect your appliances from surges by installing surge protectors.

“• No matter how much LPEA invests in improving our infrastructure, occasional outages are inevitable. Learn how to be prepared at https://lpea.coop/weathering-winter-storm.”

Be prepared

The following information to help weather a winter storm was provided by LPEA. 

When ice and heavy snow bring down limbs and power lines, safety is a consideration indoors and out. Make sure you know how to weather the storm. 

When outside, stay away from downed power lines: 

A power line need not be sparking or arcing to be energized. Equipment near power lines can also be energized and dangerous. 

Lines that appear to be “dead” can become energized as crews work to restore power or sometimes from improper use of emergency generators. Assume all low and downed lines are energized and dangerous. If you see a downed or sagging line, contact LPEA. 

If you are in an auto accident involving a downed power line, your vehicle is usually the safest place to be (unless it is on fire). If it is safe to do so, stay in your car, call 911, and wait for LPEA personnel to arrive to de-energize the power. If you step out of the car and the ground is energized, you could become the electrical current’s path to ground and you could be electrocuted. If your car is on fire or you see smoke, make a solid, clean jump from your vehicle and hop away with your feet together as far away as you can. If you run or walk away, you could get electrocuted. 

Motorists should never drive over a downed line, as snagging a line could pull down a pole or other equipment and cause other hazards. 

Be careful approaching intersections where traffic or crossing lights may be out. 

If you plan to use a generator, know how to operate it safely. 

Before a winter storm, have supplies on hand and know how to stay warm: 

Always keep a battery-powered radio or TV, flashlights and a supply of fresh batteries. Also, have water, blankets and nonperishable food. 

When power goes out, it often comes back in spikes. This can damage electronics. Keep your electronics safe by unplugging them when the power goes out. Leave one lamp or switch on as a signal for when your power returns. 

To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly, so water drips from the tap. Know how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts. 

Never use a charcoal grill to cook or heat with inside the home. Burning charcoal gives off deadly carbon monoxide gas. Charcoal grills should only be used outdoors. 

If you live with a child or elderly person, you may need to take them somewhere with power, so they can stay warm. If you are healthy enough to stay home safely, there are ways to stay warm: stay inside and dress warmly in layered clothing. 

Close off unneeded rooms. 

When using an alternate heat source, follow operating instructions, use fire safeguards, and be sure to ventilate properly. 

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