Power Outages Bring Carbon Monoxide Concerns

By: Jessica Cunnington Email
By: Jessica Cunnington Email

March 8, 2013

Many people are counting on alternative ways to stay warm, but that might cause some potential issues for you and your family. One Gordonsville resident experienced carbon monoxide poisoning after using their generator.

Susan Forschler says she's used to losing power after a big storm and their generator automatically turns on.

But after Wednesday's storm, she says she's lucky to be alive.

"And the grace of God I'm here, and everything's fine. I don't know what would have happened if we stayed all night and may not have been awake in the morning," Forschler said.

She lost power just as thousands of other central Virginian's did during Wednesday's storm but little did she know, by using their generator, she was being exposed to carbon monoxide.

"I could smell a bit more fumes than I normally can," she said, remembering when her headache started on Wednesday night. And it was still there when she woke up on Thursday.

"It was persistent and it started wrap around the back of my head. And I just knew that this was, it just wasn't right."

The Albemarle County Fire Marshal says the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are flu-like symptoms: headaches, dizziness and nausea.

"If you start feeling anything like that, get out of the house, get fresh air and call for help," Howard Lagomarsino, Albemarle County Fire Marshal said.

A friend convinced Forschler to buy a carbon monoxide detector immediately. When she plugged it in, it was reading very high numbers. The highest, were in the basement, right where the generator was letting exhaust in.

When rescue crews came and took care of the house, she says within 10 minutes of being outside, the headache was gone and she regained energy.

Crews went through the house over and over making sure every bit of carbon monoxide was out.

"Having the fire alarms but also have your carbon monoxide detectors and your rate on and all these things - you just don't know they're silent you don't know. And it's better to be safe than sorry."

And even thought it's worked well where it is for years, the Forschler's are going to move the generator even further away from her home for next winter.

Carbon monoxide is a major byproduct of generator exhaust, wood stoves, fireplaces, or anything that burns fuel.

It is called the "invisible" gas because it is colorless, odorless and tasteless.

Breathing in carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and nausea.

The Albemarle County Fire Marshal says at the beginning of a big storm everyone is proactive in terms of safety, but as the days go on we might not keep certain tips in mind.

He says there were at least three carbon monoxide cases that were reported Thursday.

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