SWEPCO crews on standby for possible winter weather outages; state fire marshal offers life-saving generator tips

SWEPCO crews on standby for possible winter weather outages; state fire marshal offers life-saving generator tips
Crews are getting ready for the Arctic air expected to hit the ArkLaTex region during the coming week. (Source: KSLA)

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - As a blast of Arctic air approaches the ArkLaTex area, last-minute preps are being made.

That includes the more than half a million SWEPCO power customers in this region.

Crews with SWEPCO are busy today removing trees and limbs that could pose a threat to power lines.

The power company has hundreds of crew members on standby for any potential outages.

Much of the trouble depends on the kind of snow or ice that arrives, starting Sunday night into Monday morning.

FULL INTERVIEW WITH BROWNING:

RAW INTERVIEW: State Fire Marshal Butch Browning talks winter weather safety

According to SWEPCO spokesperson Carey Sullivan, their own experts delivered some potentially good news about the kind of snow we’re expected to see.

“AEP meteorologists expect that it will be a dry snow, which is really great news for us. It’s when it’s a wet snow or it’s icy, that the trees come down into the power lines and that causes outages.”

Staying safe while heating homes

Sullivan says they also have some advice if power lines are affected in the wintry storm.

“If a tree comes down or a power line comes down, the first thing you need to do is stay away. You need to keep your pets and children away. Then you need to call SWEPCO and report the hazard.”

Louisiana State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning spoke to us through a zoom interview, explaining what the cold weather means to him and his office.

“We know that when we see below freezing temperatures for longer than 24 hours we’re going to have fires in the state.”

In fact, it’s already turned out to be a deadly year with 12 house fire deaths statewide.

Browning says through so many fatal fire scenes he’s struck by one similar thread in almost all of them.

“Almost every, literally every death that we have we find that there wasn’t a properly operating smoke detector. So, you know, that story keeps itself over and over again.”

Browning added that they see the same tragic pattern when it comes to improper use of a gas powered home generator

“Those carbon monoxide gases, if you put that generator any closer than 20 feet. If you put that generator near a door or a window where the carbon monoxide gas can seep in, you know that gas is odorless, you know, you can’t see it, and you know, it’s deadly.”

A lesser known safety hazard is improper fueling of generators. Browning cautions people not to immediately grab the gas can and try to refill a generator before turning it off and letting it cool down first.

“Because if you spill fuel and the vapors come in contact with a hot surface, like the engine block or like the manifold, it is going to ignite that gasoline. And it will cause an explosion. It can cause burn injuries. But it could certainly burn down anything in its path.”

Browning and others are hoping more information to the public can prevent at least some fire deaths this year.

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