Butte, Mont. - Nov. 7, 2012 - The first major snow storm of
the 2012-2013 winter season has the potential to affect a
large swath of Montana and NorthWestern Energy is reminding
customers of important safety measures.
The forecast from the National Weather Service calls for
significant snow, wind and possible overnight subzero
temperatures across much of Montana in the next few days.
Such events always increase the possibility of power outages.
Such weather also highlights the need for natural gas and
electric customers to take simple, precautionary safety
Natural Gas Customers
Heavy wet, blowing snow can block heating and appliance
exhaust vents which can cause equipment to malfunction
resulting in a loss of heat or a buildup of deadly carbon
monoxide in the structure.
Outdoor natural gas meters and equipment are designed to
withstand Montana's winter weather conditions. However,
heavy buildup of snow or ice, icicles falling from building
eaves, or water dripping from a roof and freezing on a
natural gas meter or appliance vent, may disrupt the flow of
natural gas or create a potentially dangerous situation
inside the structure.
If your home has an outside natural gas meter, check it
routinely for accumulation of ice or snow. Look for your
natural gas appliance vents - which often are on the roof -
to ensure they are clear of snow. Also remember that clearing
snow and ice from meters or vents needs to be done carefully
and gently to avoid damaging the equipment.
It at any time if you smell a strong and persistent odor
similar to sulfur or rotten eggs, leave your home immediately
and avoid using any electric appliances such as light
switches, garage door openers and phones-including a cell
phone. When you are at a safe distance away, call
NorthWestern Energy at (888) 467-2669 or 911 to report the
concern. Stay away from the building until someone from the
utility or a first responder tells you it's safe.
Unlike natural gas, carbon monoxide is odorless and may be
present when a fuel is not burned completely due to
inadequate combustion air or when exhaust vents become
clogged. Carbon monoxide symptoms include headache, nausea,
vomiting, fatigue, and confusion. If you suspect carbon
monoxide may be present, seek fresh air immediately and call
Other safety reminders include:
Ensure your natural gas meter is visible at all times and
accessible for maintenance and emergency responders.
Avoid using a snow blower near a meter to keep from burying
the meter with snow.
Gently remove the snow or ice around the meter with your
hands or use a broom to brush it away. If ice or excessive
snow has encased your meter, contact NorthWestern Energy at
Never kick or hit your natural gas meter or its piping with
a hammer or other hard object in order to dislodge snow or
Keep natural gas vents clear, unobstructed and free of
debris. Some direct-vent and high-efficiency appliances
have direct side wall outdoor vents and air intakes that
could become obstructed during heavy snowfall. Other vents
may be on the roof.
If you have a seasonal property or are away on vacation,
ask someone to check your natural gas meters and
vents-especially after a significant storm. A covered
meter, in addition to being potentially dangerous, can
disrupt service leading to loss of heat to the structure.
Customers calling to report outages may experience extended
on-hold times in the event of a large-scale outage situation.
Customers who wish to report an outage and don't want to
wait to speak to a representative can leave a message by
following the prompts within the telephone system.
Customers are reminded to use caution and common sense around
electric power lines that are sagging or downed. Never
attempt to touch or move a low-hanging wire as lines may
still be energized even if they are lying on the ground.
Here are a few reminders in case electric service to your
home or business is interrupted:
Contact NorthWestern Energy at 888-467-2669 to report
outages, downed or sagging power lines. If you see fallen
or sagging electrical wires, assume they are
"live" and stay clear of the lines. Keep others
away from wires and any other structures that may be
energized. Call your local utility or local emergency
services to report a downed or sagging power line.
Use portable generators only if a licensed electrical
contractor in accordance with all federal and state codes
and local ordinances has properly installed them. Portable
generators should not be connected directly to your house
or any building wiring. Doing so may feed power back on to
our electric lines and threaten the safety of our employees
working to restore an outage.
Beware of fallen or broken branches and trees as they are a
major cause of power outages and could be energized if they
are in or come in contact with a live electric line.
Keep an emergency kit ready-include flashlights, battery
powered radio, canned foods that require no cooking, and
fresh batteries. Some other things to remember: only
non-electric land line phones work during storm events when
power is interrupted, and keep your cell phone
fully-charged when storm events are expected. Also, some
cell phone towers do not work at full power after losing an
Shut off appliances, lights and unplug sensitive electronic
equipment. Using a surge protector also helps to protect
sensitive electronic equipment such as televisions and
NorthWestern Energy's Customer Service Number is
About NorthWestern Energy
NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in
the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately
668,400 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.www.northwesternenergy.com.