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Utilities hustle to meet demands
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The Polar Vortex is bringing more than just below-freezing temperatures to Middle Tennessee. It’s also bringing loss of power and ruptured water pipes.
Residents in the Centertown area found themselves without power off and on Tuesday morning.
Vicki King, Caney Fork Electric communications coordinator, said Tuesday, “We had one line down on Shellsford Road today. But, we have had crews out round-the-clock since yesterday. We have had 400 to 500 members without power. The outages have been sporadic, however. With the extreme cold temperatures, our system was overloaded. Everyone has power right now.”
King said it’s been decades since Warren County has seen temperatures this extreme. “It has been 20 years since we have experienced this type of problems. We do invest in frequent tree trimming. Caney Fork puts forth our best effort to make sure our members have power during the worst weather situations,” said King.
TVA said electricity consumption reached 32,490 megawatts Tuesday. TVA’s all-time winter peak was set in January 2009 when the average usage in the Tennessee Valley was 32,572 megawatts.
McMinnville Electric System linemen also pulled an all-nighter Monday. According to lineman Thomas Stafford, a transformer lead burned up at Asbury Apartments leaving residents without power for about an hour. An outage on Orchard Lane also left 26 residents without power for almost three hours.
McMinnville Electric general manager and CEO Rodney Boyd said, “When it gets cold, wires shrink. We had wires to get cold and so tight, it pulled a connector loose which caused 26 people to be out of power. When it gets this cold, thing break that we didn’t anticipate. However, we do try to anticipate and plan according to predicted weather conditions. We were fortunate more people were not without power and the problem was taken care of.”
Stafford, a resident of Crisp Springs Road, spent time making sure others had power while at the same time his power went out at his home.
“My wife saw the main box smoking about 5 p.m.. My home was built in the 1960s and has 100 amp services. New houses have 200 amp. Back in the ’60s, there were not as many electrical appliances. It also hasn’t been this cold in years. Now people have iPads, Wiis, etc. We have a 240-volt dryer, stove and hot water heater. My wife was using all of those at the same time. On top of that, our heater never kicked off. It was pulling more amps than it was rated for. When that happens, it corrodes and causes a bad connection. It could very well have burned the house down.”
Stafford had to leave his home to work on repair calls for MES. His father was trying to work on the power at his home. But, some time between 5 and 7 p.m. it got cold enough to freeze the water pipes underneath Stafford’s house.
“A lot of people don’t realize what we do as linemen. I had to do my job last night which got me further behind and caused my pipes to freeze. I had issues at home, but I did my job,” said Stafford.
He put a kerosene heater in the house to minimize the damage but he and his family spent the night at his mother’s home.
“I did not want to risk inhaling carbon monoxide. I have heard of that happening when people had kerosene heaters in their garage. The carbon monoxide got into their home and filled with carbon monoxide. With extreme cold, people can also get hypothermia. People are somewhat spoiled here having electricity. Most people are not prepared financially or livability wise when something like this occurs. I would definitely suggest for people who have older homes to get an electrician to come in and do a study,” said Stafford.
Power lines are not the only things affected by the extremely cold temperatures. Greg and Chris Ledbetter’s front yard on Rivermont Drive looked like a winter wonderland when a pipe burst Tuesday morning near the road.
“Greg came out this morning and water was just pouring all over the ground. Our yard and driveway looked like an ice skating rink. McMinnville Water Department came right over and fixed the pipe. After cleaning up the mess, they put ice-melt on the street and down our driveway. They quickly took care of the broken pipe and went above and beyond. We are thankful,” said Chris.
Paul Williamson, construction supervisor for McMinnville Water and Wastewater Management said, “Monday we had four frozen meters and today we have had 11 no-water calls which can be from broken pipes. This is the first cold spell like this in over 10 years. We will probably get more calls when the ground starts to thaw. When the ground thaws, it moves and when it moves, it can snap a pipe. Right now, the snow is providing an insulation layer over the ground and the pipe.”
Temperatures are expected to climb to the 50s by Thursday.