The first blow from today’s winter storm – the gusty winds overnight – didn’t knock out the power for many Western New Yorkers.

Fewer than 1,000 customers in Erie County were without electricity by late Monday morning, as power lines withstood the high winds that came with the leading edge of the storm.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be more problems, especially in areas where the snow is forecast to be measured in feet and with temperatures across the region to dip below 10 degrees.

“We’re always concerned about outages when there is extreme cold,” said Stephen F. Brady, a National Grid spokesman in Buffalo. “These are always ‘all hands on deck.’”

Those cold temperatures also could help limit the scope of outages, Brady said. Because snow during very cold days tends to be lighter, it’s less likely to cause problems by weighing down power lines and knocking down branches, compared with the heavier snow that comes with storms associated with near-freezing temperatures.

Even so, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the worst. National Grid and New York State Electric & Gas recommend that consumers follow these tips:

• If the power goes out, call the utility to tell them about it, Brady said. “If a customer’s lights go out, they should never assume that we know,” he said. “They should always call us. Plus, our systems work best when we have more information.”

National Grid customers can report outages by calling (800) 867-5222. NYSEG customers can report outages by calling (800) 572-1131.

• Keep flashlights, a battery-powered radio and fresh batteries handy.

• Have at least one telephone that is not dependent on electricity. (Cordless phones won’t work during a power outage and neither will phones that rely on Internet service, such as phone service offered by cable television providers.)

• If you have a cell phone, make sure the battery is fully charged.

• Disconnect sensitive appliances, such as computers, televisions and microwaves, so they aren’t damaged by a potential power surge when the electricity comes back on.

• Keep refrigerator and freezer doors shut. Food will stay six to nine hours in a refrigerator without spoiling in a refrigerator that isn’t opened. Frozen foods will keep about 24 hours.

• Keep some non-perishable food and bottled water on hand.

• Use generators safely and make sure you only operate them outdoors in a well-ventilated area.

• If you use a space heater, be mindful that some types of kerosene and propane portable space heaters get hot enough to ignite nearby draperies, carpet, paper, clothing or furniture. Check them periodically to see if they feel hot. Use models that have an automatic shutoff device that turns the heater off if it tips over or becomes too hot.


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