Created: 03/05/2014 10:52 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- Extremely cold temperatures caused water pipes to freeze all across the area this winter, but now this latest blast of snow could cause problems with gas and electric lines as well.
With the snow as deep as it is, most people are having a hard time keeping their driveways and sidewalks clear, let alone the sides of their house.
But officials with local utility companies are asking people to try and do just that.
"For proper operation and safety we recommend that snow be removed around gas meters,” said Todd Jorgenson, operations director for Austin Utilities.
As difficult as it may be, experts said it's important to keep your gas and electric meters clear of both snow and ice.
"That can create a safety hazard as well as interrupt power to the house,” said Al Stadheim, manager of operations for Alliant Energy in Albert Lea. “Then on the gas side, there's a concern about ice dripping on top of the meter set and blocking the regulator vent."
A blocked vent could cause a dangerous gas backup into the house, but officials also said they need a clear path to the meters in order to get an accurate reading.
"This has been the worst year for our meter reading folks in anyone's memory,” Stadheim said. “With the depth of the snow, it is just a tough, tough situation to be in."
If readers can't get to the meters, officials said they're forced to estimate usage until they can get a true reading and correct the bills.
But with the snow likely to stick around for a while, experts said keeping meters clear is the best way to keep the power on and utility employees happy.
"Our folks would certainly be your new best friend if you shovel them a path to those meter locations,” Stadheim said.
If you do find your meters coated in ice, officials ask that you contact the utility company rather than trying to scrape it off yourself.
And the snow is actually piled so high in some places that officials are also asking for people to look out for power lines and call if they're close to coming into contact with any drifts.