(WBAY) - With blowing and drifting making this already deep snow even deeper, utility companies and fire departments across Northeast Wisconsin are sending out an urgent reminder to keep furnace exhaust vents and utility meters clear.
Blockage can cause furnaces to shut off. Blockages could also cause the exhaust gases to back up or vent back into the house, causing carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide has no smell, taste or color to alert you, and it can be deadly.
The Suamico Fire Department responded Sunday morning when an elderly couple reported their vents were blocked. Firefighters found snow and drifts covering the entire west side of their house. They located the vents and dug them out.
If you don't know where your furnace vents to the outside, the fire department suggests looking at your furnace. Newer systems will have two 3" PVC pipes at the top -- one for intake, one for exhaust. Follow those pipes to determine where they exit the building. An older system will have an aluminum pipe coming off the back and venting to the chimney.
According to the CDC, symptoms of CO poisoning are described as "flu-like": headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. The CDC warns that people who are sleeping can die without waking up with these symptoms.
Accident CO poisoning results in 20,000 emergency room, 4,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths each year in the U.S., the CDC reports.
It's recommended that everyone has a CO detector in their home and replaces the batteries twice a year when they replace their smoke detector batteries.