Thousands still without power

-A A +A
By Vicky Gits

About 4,000 people were without power on Monday morning in Evergreen in the wake of the weekend storm, down from a peak of 11,000.


Joe Fuentes, spokesman for Xcel Energy, said the power company deployed about 30 crews from all over the Denver area to help restore power to individual homes on Monday.


As the snow piled up, organizers had to cancel the Earth Day celebration, scheduled for Saturday, April 18, at the Lake House. Because so many exhibitors and volunteers were involved, the event won’t be restaged on another day, said Cathy Shelton, a spokesperson for Earth Day and Beyond.  The event has been canceled only one other time — in 1999 — since its inception 20 years ago.


Chief Garry DeJong of the Evergreen Fire Protection District said there were many reports of downed power lines sparking and starting trees on fire. The radio system went down briefly, and operations were transferred over to the Jefferson County frequency. An emergency generator failed to kick in, and firefighters had to jump-start it.  


“Otherwise, it was fairly uneventful for the size of the storm,” DeJong said. “We had a lot of (carbon monoxide) calls for furnaces. The electric garage doors (at the fire station) went out, so we had to use the chains.”


“I’m ecstatic with the amount of moisture, but it doesn’t take away the fact we were extremely dry going into it,” he said.


Foothills Fire & Rescue was hit hard with car crashes on I-70 over the weekend, responding to 13 major calls, when it usually gets about two or three, said Jeannette Kehoe, business manager. I-70 was closed from Friday evening until midday Saturday.


The storm brought out good samaritans like Matt and Kate Johnson and a young man named Colbey (last name unavailable) who shoveled out the parking lot for the elderly people living at Green Ridge Meadows in Evergreen, reported resident Linda Mowry.


Meanwhile, in Conifer, electrical outages continued to affect about 700 to 800 homes late Monday afternoon after the storm dumped up to 4 feet of snow in that area.


At the peak, about 14,000 customers were without power, said Bill Schroeder, spokesman for the Intermountain Rural Electric Association. The arms of a wooden transmission-line pole collapsed between Morrison and Fairplay sometime on Friday, Schroeder said.


By Monday noon, the pole had been fixed, and technicians were struggling to restore power to 1,800 to 2,000 homes on the 285 Corridor, mostly on the fringes of the system in the mountains.


“The guys are working their tails off,” Schroeder said Monday. “We have 18 crews working total. The goal is to get the problems fixed as quickly as possible. We think quite a few will get done today and hopefully finish up tomorrow.”


Trees were falling down because of the weight of the snow and the saturation of the ground.


“We get the crews working, and then a tree falls on the line again,” he said. Two crews were working cutting trees.


Anyone who is still without power should call the IREA main office at 303-688-1300.


The company is working on building a new transmission line from Fairplay to Conifer to provide a backup system, Schroeder said. But completion is a couple of years away.


On Friday, owner Susie Schmittel decided to keep the Montessori School of Conifer open because of reports that Jefferson County Schools were staying open. “When I looked out my window, it just didn’t add up. I’m guessing that whoever decided to open the schools lived in Denver.” Only three of 22 kids showed up.  


Mike Wurthman, who lives at 9,000 feet on Conifer Mountain, has been doing without electricity since his power went out on Friday afternoon, April 17.  As of noon Monday, he was still without electrical power.


Wurthman has a generator hooked up and running the two refrigerators and a freezer, but it isn’t powerful enough to run the water pump. He was eager to get into the Jacuzzi to ease his aching, snow-shoveling muscles.


Cathy Shelton, who lives halfway between Conifer and Evergreen in Evergreen Highlands, reported about 36 inches of snow over the weekend. She was rejoicing in the new snowblower her family purchased last year.


The Sheltons were without power from about 4 p.m. Friday until Sunday afternoon until 3 p.m. The cable Internet came back on Monday. “The only concern was running out of wood. We had plenty of food. When the lights flickered, I filled the bathtub. We are on a well, so we lose the pump,” Shelton said.


With the wood stove going, staying warm enough wasn’t a problem. “The funny thing is, we go camping for two or three days and don’t miss (TV). But when you are sitting on your couch and the TV is dark, it’s really different. You just don’t know what’s going out there so much,” Shelton said. “We read books and played cards. But mainly we did a lot of shoveling and snowblowing, so we weren’t snowed in,” she said.


“It was good overall.  We needed the moisture.”


Betsy Butler, who lives on Deer Road in Brook Forest Estates in the Clear Creek County part of Evergreen, said as of Monday at 2:20 p.m., she continued to be without power.  She was melting snow in order to flush the toilets and was able to take a shower at the rec center. She had words of praise for the Clear Creek snowplow operator who kept the road open all weekend.


Jeff Ashford measured about 5 feet of snow at his house on Brook Forest Road. “It was way above my waist. Big, heavy, wet stuff,” he said. By Monday at 10 a.m., IREA had still not restored power to his house.


“I would really like to have a shower right now,” Ashford said. “It’s kind of like camping at my house.”  


Closings included the Evergreen Park and Recreation District, which shut down on Friday at noon and reopened at noon  Sunday. A leaky roof caused substantial damage to the reception area and ruined one computer in Wulf Recreation Center, said John Skeel, executive director.