Cold grips Marshall County

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cold grips Marshall County

By Karen Hall


Record low temperatures chilled the county Monday and Tuesday, postponing the return to school after Christmas break and causing cancellations and some problems for utilties.

A jury trial which was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Monday was cancelled by the judge Sunday afternoon. Circuit Court Clerk Elinor Foster came in to the office and put the message on the jury line. She said about 25 people didn't re-check the message and showed up anyway.

The mayor and councilmen of the City of Lewisburg cancelled the work session they planned Monday night, and resheduled it for 6 p.m. Thursday.

As early as Friday evening, Director of Schools Jackie Abernathy was anticipating schools would be closed because of the cold. Not only icy roads and children waiting in the cold for buses concerned her, she said. Unlike school buses in northern states, Marshall County's school buses are not equipped to handle super cold temperatures: the fuel lines can freeze, and the air brakes can stop working.

Duck River Electric Membership Cooperative asked its customers, on behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority, to try and restrict their power use during the projected peak period of 6 to 8 a.m. Tuesday.

People seem to have complied to the best of their ability, because power usage was less than the previous record, set when temperatures were slightly warmer. TVA announced their power system reached a preliminary peak power demand of 32,460 megawatts at 9 a.m. Tuesday with the Valley's average temperature at 4 degrees. This is the second highest winter peak in TVA history. TVA's record winter demand is 32,572 megawatts, set on Jan. 16, 2009, when temperatures averaged 9 degrees. (TVA's all-time record is 33,482 megawatts set on Aug. 16, 2007, when temperatures averaged 102 degrees.)

Commercial and industrial customers in the ENERNOC program also did their part, and this included the Lewisburg Water Purification Plant, which shut down from about 5 to 10 a.m. both Monday and Tuesday to conserve power and help TVA, according to supervisor Cathy Nash.

The water system is functioning normally, but "tomorrow may be another story," Nash said, as water lines start to thaw out.

That's when you get leaks, she said, and Water and Wastewater Department employees will be hurrying to turn off meters so plumbers can repair the lines.

Lewisburg Electric System residential customers may have noticed their lights flickering Tuesday morning. LES Director Richard Turner explained this was because of a problem with the substation on Franklin Road. The substation was thrown out of balance by people using more electricity trying to keep warm.

"Nobody did anything wrong," said Turner. The relay was tripped to protect the $2 million substation, and LES personnel got it back in balance.

"It's hard to stay out in front of it," Turner said. "But now the substation is happy, we're happy, and we hope the people are happy."

A 2 1/4-inch water main broke on Farmington Belfast Road, reported Water and Wastewater Department Assistant Superintendent Pepper Biggers, but it was repaired Monday morning, and back in service by lunch time.

Biggers was reluctant to attribute the break to the cold weather, stating that this is an old main that has given trouble in the past.