Cold low temperatures irritate many but create no major problems

dworthington@heraldonline.comJanuary 7, 2014 

  • What to expect

    Today – High: 40 degrees. Low: 23. Little to no wind.

    Thursday – High 42 degrees. Low: 39 degrees.

    Friday – High 47 degrees. Low: 39 degrees.

    National Weather Service

Single-digit temperatures froze water pipes, killed vehicle batteries and silenced furnances for many local residents Tuesday morning.

With the temperature expected to drop to near 11 degrees early Wednesday morning, more problems are likely. Lancaster and Chester school districts delayed Wednesday morning start times by two hours. All York County districts scheduled normal opening times.

The state Highway Patrol said calls for assistance tripled on Monday afternoon and Tuesday, with more than 600 motorists needing help. The morning commute to Charlotte was slow, but the problems on Interstate 77 were caused by accidents and not ice.

The cold temperatures also meant that every available space in shelters and warming stations in York County was used Monday night. The same was expected Tuesday night.

But even with the coldest recorded temperatures in three decades, York County fared “very well,” said Cotton Howell, director of emergency services for York County. No major problems were reported, he said.

But statewide, a man in Cherokee County and a woman in Spartanburg County were found dead outside in the cold temperatures, authorities said.

The National Weather Service advised people to wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. That type of clothing traps air between the layers, which acts as insulation. Outer garments should be water repellent and tightly woven. A hat is essential as 40 percent of body heat is lost through the head. The weather services says mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.

Lancaster and Chester school officials say they hope the delayed opening helps them overcome any problems. On Tuesday, 15 Lancaster buses would not start. The Clover school district reported minor bus problems.

Lancaster Superintendent Gene Moore said up to 1,800 students could have been affected by bus problems if school had started at the regular time on Tuesday. “The delay gave mechanics and our drivers time to make sure buses were running and could be at stops on time so students wouldn’t have to wait outside in the extreme cold for a long time,” he said.

Homeless shelters and warming centers expected another busy evening Tuesday and all day Wednesday.

Iris Hubbard, director of the Renew our Community Center in Rock Hill, said more than 80 people visited the center Tuesday to keep out of the cold. On Monday night, center volunteers took people to the Bethel Shelter with 24 beds, the Salvation Army with 12 beds for women and children and to Pilgrims’ Inn, which has 17 beds for women and children.

The center is coordinating with the shelters so that people can leave the shelters and head to the ROC center during the day to keep warm. In the evening, the process is reversed.

The cold temperatures did not affect electric operations, but Duke Energy asked customers to conserve power. Rock Hill reported a hour outage along Anderson Road from 11 p.m. to midnight Monday because of an equipment failure that affected 932 customers, including York Technical College and the city’s operations center, said city spokeswoman Katie Quinn.

Rock Hill also reported three water main breaks. A 6-inch water line cracked on Wilson Street near the U.S. Post Office, creating a sheet of ice that closed the street. Chelsea Rixing, who lives in a house near the break, said she was told to expect to be without water for three to four hours. Rixing, who was taking care of two children for a friend, said “somehow we’ll make it.” The city restored water service about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The other breaks were at Lakeside Drive and Alabama Court, Quinn said.

Plumbers and heating technicians were prepared for a busy day. Calls for frozen pipes had been coming in as early as Saturday. But on Tuesday, companies reported their business doubled or tripled.

“We’re doing everything we can and we won’t get to all our jobs today,” said Chris Carter, owner of Carter Quality Plumbing with offices in Rock Hill and Lancaster. His firm regularly sees about 12 clients a day. On Tuesday, it had more than 36 calls.

Carter said the best way for homeowners to prevent plumbing problems during cold weather is to disconnect outside hoses from spigots and to put covers over the spigots. When hoses are left attached, the water freezes and the hoses act like a wick that can break the pipes or spigots.

Carter also said homeowners should make sure all outside pipes are properly insulated as well as those in crawl spaces or in attics.

Gary Luciano, marketing manager for Brothers Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, said faucets should be left slightly open, producing a slow drip to keep pipes from freezing. He also advised keeping the heating system running throughout the night.

Statewide, Cherokee County authorities are investigating the death of a man whose body was found in a field across the street from a Gaffney homeless shelter.

Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler says a cab driver discovered the man just before 8 a.m. Tuesday. The man’s name had not been released Tuesday afternoon.

Fowler says the man was brought to the Harbor of Hope shelter at around 5:30 p.m. Monday after being discharged from a medical center, where he told attendants he didn’t have heat in his home. Fowler said an autopsy had been scheduled for Wednesday morning to help determine if the man died from a medical condition prior to the onset of hyperthermia.

And in Spartanburg County, the coroner is investigating the death of a 56-year-old woman who was found outside a home in Una.

Coroner Rusty Clevenger says that the body of Norma Jean Sanders was found on Tuesday.

Clevenger says Sanders had apparently been out all night in the cold. She lived on the street where she was found, but Clevenger says Sanders wasn’t found in her own yard.

Clevenger says that he is still trying to figure out if factors in addition to the cold contributed to Sanders’ death.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 Herald writer Rachel Southmayd contributed to this story

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