Family still without power 6 days after blizzard

Posted at 10:50 PM, Mar 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-29 08:45:21-04

Nearly a week after a powerful blizzard knocked out power to nearly 320,000 homes along the Front Range, at least one home is still without power.

It's now a fight between the homeowner and Xcel Energy.

"Well, we don't have a washer or a dryer, or a stove or a refrigerator - so we did throw out our food," said Linda Winter. Her home has been without power since the blizzard roared through Colorado last Wednesday.

Inside the home, it's chilly.

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"I'm wearing my coat,” Linda said as she pointed out to space heaters they bought. "I mean, we have running water, but it's not hot - so you can't take a shower."

Linda points to an unopened can of soda on the kitchen table. “Feel it. It’s as cold as it would be in our refrigerator just sitting out here.”

In the yard, Linda’s husband, Dick, points out the problem.

"It broke the pole off and tore all the lines off," said Dick. “All of Xcel’s poles went down out on our road, Russell. All the way to Briggsdale. We shouldn't have to fix this.”

The Winters also don’t have power to the sheds and outbuildings on their farm.

At issue, who is responsible for the power lines.     

Xcel fixed the nearly 50 poles that snapped on County Road 66 where the Winters live.  It refuses to fix the pole that came down in the Winter's yard.

“If the wind had come out of the south, this probably wouldn’t have happened,” said Dick. “But it came out of the north, and their poles going down took ours down with them.”

Dick and Linda are fortunate to have their son, Tony, living within a half mile of their home. They are currently staying with their son.

“It’s cold in there,” said Tony. “It’s 50 degrees. I have a four-year-old and a six-year-old. They wouldn’t be able to stay in that house.”

Tony says two days after the storm, Xcel had 25 bucket trucks and 25 digger trucks lined up on CR 66.

“They had the manpower, they had the poles,” Tony said. “They were just negligent on trying to restore service. They’ve admitted to fault, yet they don’t bring power to the meter here which is their responsibility.”

For its part, Xcel says it's not responsible for poles on private property.

“Litigious issues arise if we get involved with customer poles," said Mark Stutz, spokesman for Xcel. “We really don’t know the exact chain of events here.”

In the meantime, the Winter family has decided to move on at their own expense for now.

They hired Derek Jackson with Action Electric to bury all their lines underground so this isn't an issue in the future.

“I'm going to put it underground so the next time those poles fall, it won't do this to me,” said Dick. “My stuff would have never went down if it weren't for their poles going down. They admit fault, but they won't fix it.”

Linda says Xcel is nothing more than a corporate bully.

"I would like to see the gentleman at the top, who's making these decisions, turn the power off in his house and see how his wife and kids react," she said.

Xcel said every customer is responsible for the poles or even electrical lines along the outside of their homes if the wind rips them away.

“There’s no way you can predict and protect against an act of God,” said Stutz.

In this case, the Winters have filed a complaint with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Xcel says it is investigating.

"If it's found the company was at fault, there are ways to recover your expenses," said Stutz.

“It's all time and money, but the real frustration is - we can't get help from Xcel and we’ve been customers for 45 years paying about $10,000 a year for all the electricity we use to operate the farm. They have our lives in their hands,” said Linda.