New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - February 3, 2011, New Braunfels, Texas
Thursday, February 3, 2011 — Herald-Zeitung — Page 5
CONTINUED FROM Page 1
freezing once again. The wind-chill reading on Thursday morning will still likely be in the single digits."
A massive winter storm that spread east across the nation dropped the mercury to 19 degrees in New Braunfels on Wednesday morning, a mark Yura said was the coldest reading recorded in the city so far this winter.
Yura said Friday’s expected snow storm should pass through by Friday afternoon and a warming trend will follow, though overnight temps will remain near freezing until Monday morning. But another arctic blast is due early Tlies-day, he said.
With heaters blowing full blast and straining electrical supplies across New Braunfels and Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) ordered the city’s New Braunfels Utilities to institute rolling brownouts—temporary power outages in various quadrants of the city — on Wednesday morning.
The brownouts were needed to “conserve and manage the electricity we have available,” said NBU Communications Manager Gnetchen Reuw-er. “ERCOT is doing this to keep from having a huge outage across the whole grid."
Pedernales Electric Cooperative, which serves Comal County, and the Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative, which serves parts of New Braunfels, as well as other utilities across the state, also endured ERCOT-ordered brownouts Wednesday morning.
New Braunfels’ brownouts, which typically lasted about 20 to 30 minutes, began about 5:30 a.m. and ended about 7:30 am, when two of NBU’s largest electricity users, Cemex and TXI, voluntarily shut down their quarry operations outside New Braunfels for the day, Reuwer said.
She said the shutdowns at the quarries just may have prevented a blackout in the NBU service area.
“It’s just huge that Cemex and TXI have that much compassion for their community that they’re willing to make a huge business sacrifice in order help us meet our residential customers’ needs,” she said. “But it’s going to take everybody helping out.
“If we all work together, we can get through these next couple of days and hopefully not have to experience that again."
NBU is asking customers to limit their electricity usage over the next several days.
“Unplug chargers for computers and iPods and cell phones. Limit TV use, try to keep heaters down as much as possible,” Reuwer said.
Cutting electricity use will help prevent the need for additional rolling brownouts or for
New Braunfels officials offer tips for dealing with extreme cold
An arctic cold front has moved into the area producing the coldest temperatures we have seen this winter. The City of New Braunfels advises citizens to take the follow precautionary actions during this period of extreme cold:
• Only use heating devices that are rated and approved for indoor use and keep combustible materials at least three feet away from all heating equipment.
• Make sure gas-fired appliances are properly maintained. Improperly functioning gas fired appliances can produce carbon monoxide, a deadly'gas that is colorless, odorless and tasteless. If you suspect your appliance is malfunctioning, or you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, turn it off, open the windows and doors, and evacuate the area and call 9-1-1.
• Protect pipes, pets and plants. Wrap exterior pipes
and drip indoor
faucets, water and cover cold sensitive plants, and provide outdoor pets and livestock with protection from the wind and adequate bedding material.
• Keep extra batteries and blankets on hand in case electricity is not available because of weather conditions.
• Keep candles, and other open flame devices, away from combustible objects and make sure they are extinguished before going to sleep.
• Check on friends and neighbors. The elderly and ill are particularly susceptible to dehydration during cold weather.
• Give yourself extra time to get to your destination in the event roads or bridges become slippery.
widespread blackouts, she said.
“That’s not something we want to experience,” the NBU spokeswoman said.
New Braunfels Fire Chief John Robinson said city department heads met Wednesday to make plans to respond should conditions become icy. Ice can make roads dangerous for drivers and can weigh down power-lines, causing electrical outages, Robinson said.
Road crews, for instance, are ready to spread gravel should the need arise, and Fire and police officials are ready to call in additional personnel if the weather turns icy.
“Were not anticipating any major problems. We’re anticipating business as usual for all city departments and activities. We re just trying to be prepared should conditions change,” Robinson said.
Few incidents, cancellations
Police and sheriff’s officials reported no weather-related traffic problems Wednesday. Assistant County Engineer Robert Boyd said problems on the roads were likely avoided because the lack of precipitation kept roadways ice fee.
Weather concerns resulted in the cancellation of planned Wednesday evening meetings in New Braunfels, where the county’s Justice Center Steering Committee was due to meet, and in Bulverde, where that city was to have a public meeting on drainage issues.
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New Braunfels Fire Department’s meeting planned for tonight at the civic center on fire issues in the Madeline Street neighborhood also was postponed on Wednesday.
Texas State University has canceled all classes until 12:30 p.m. today. This affects both the main San Marcos campus and the Round Rock campus.
Although classes are cancelled, university offices will remain open and will maintain normal business hours.
A decision regarding classes Thursday afternoon and evening will be made by noon Thursday. Notification regarding class cancellations will be made on the university home page, via e-mail, through text messages to RAVE subscribers, on the university recorded news bulletin at (512) 245-2424 and will be communicated to media across the region.
At Cooper Country Day School on County Line Road, director Penny Cooper had to turn away a few children who arrived during a brownout at about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. The power came back on after about 20 minutes, Cooper said, so she called the parents and had them bring the kids back in.
The school experienced
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two other 20-minute brownouts during the morning, she said.
“The biggest problem is that the rooms got real cold and didn’t heat up again until about noon. But we had the children keep their coats on. We haven’t gone out to play because of the cold, but everything’s fine,” Cooper said.
A problem with an elevator at the air-traffic-control tower at New Braunfels Municipal Airport may have been triggered by a brownout outage, NBFD spokesman Patrick O’Connell said. Firemen rescued an air-traffic controller snick in an elevator car that stalled between floors at about 7 a.m.
At Comal County Courthouse, sidewalks iced over after the lawn sprinkler system came on. Crews sanded the sidewalks to keep visitors from slipping, said Anthony Saenz, maintenance supervisor at the courthouse.
“We didn’t want to take no chances,” Saenz said.
Firemen also responded to a fire in an attic furnace just before 6 a.m. Wednesday. Residents at 1247 Shiner Circle awoke to freezing temperatures and blaring smoke detectors and saw smoke coming out of their air vents. Firemen dismantled the smoky attic furnace and found an insulation board that had ignited and was smoldering, O’Connell said.
Steven Digges, owner of TIG Plumbing, said broken pipes weren’t much of a problem in New Braunfels, and plumbing suppliers were selling lots of insulation and covers for sprinkler system back-flow devices and outside faucets.
“We’re telling people to make sure they drip their faucets and open cabinets so that heat can circulate around water pipes,” Digges said.
“If you’re not getting water to a certain fixture, you may just have ice in your lines and not a break. We don’t want people going in with a blowtorch trying to heat up pipes — they might end up burning their house down, if they do have a broken pipe, they should call a licensed plumber.”
Blizzard spreads snowy shroud over the nation
By The Associated Press
CHICAGO — A fearsome storm spread a smothering shroud of white over nearly half the nation Wednesday, snarling transportation from Oklahoma to New England, burying parts of the Midwest under 2 feet of snow and laying down dangerously heavy ice in the Northeast that was too much for some buildings to bear.
Tens of millions of people stayed home. The hardy few who ventured out faced howl-ing winds that turned snowflakes into face-stinging needles. Chicago’s 20.2 inches of snow was the city’s third-largest amount on record. In New York’s Central Park, the pathways resembled skating rinks.
The storm that resulted from two clashing air masses was, if not unprecedented, extraordinarily rare for its size and ferocious strength.
“A storm that produces a swath of 20-inch snow is really something we’d see once every 50 years — maybe,” National Weather Service meteorologist Tilomas Spriggs said.
Across the storm’s path, lonely commuters struggled against drifts 3 and 4 feet deep in eerily silent streets, some of which had not seen a plow’s blade since the snow started a day earlier. Parkas and ski goggles normally reserved for the slopes became essential for getting to work.
“This is probably the most snow I’ve seen in the last 34 years,” joked 34-year-old Chicagoan Michael George. “I saw some people crosscountry skiing on my way to the train. It was pretty wild.”
Although skies were begin-
The system was blamed for at least 10 deaths, including a homeless man who burned to death on New York s Long Island as he tried to light cans of cooking fuel and a woman in Oklahoma City who was killed while being pulled behind a truck on a sled that hit a guard rail.
ning to clear by mid-after-noon over much of the nation’s midsection, the storm promised to leave a blast of bitter cold in its wake. Overnight temperatures in the upper Midwest were expected to fall to minus 5 to minus 20, with wind chills as low as minus 30.
Airport operations slowed to a crawl nationwide, and flight cancellations reached 13,000 for the week, making this system the most disruptive so far this winter.
In the winter-weary Northeast, thick ice collapsed several structures, including a gas station canopy on Long Island and an airplane hangar and garages near Boston. In at least two places, workers heard the structures beginning to crack and narrowly escaped.
In Middletown, Conn., the entire third floor of a building failed, littering the street with bricks and snapping two trees. Fire Marshal A1 San-tostefano said two workers fled when they heard a cracking sound.
“It’s like a bomb scene," Santostefano said. “Thank God they left the building when they did.”
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Electric reserve shortages occur when extreme weather events cause unusual demand on power supply providers or when power generators go down. Brutally cold weather, and 50 out-of-service power plants throughout the state of Texas, Wednesday morning were just such events. ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) required utilities across the region to reduce their demand. This required us to shut down portions of our system for 20 to 30 minutes at a time to avoid having to take the entire electric system down. Thanks to cooperation from Cemex and TXI, who voluntarily shut down operations, we were able to meet our load shed requirements and bring our residential service back up, even though rolling outages continued throughout the state.
How you can help.
We’re asking you, our customers, to limit your use of electricity as much as possible during this cold snap. Even simple things like unplugging your phone charger, watching less TV, doing laundry another day, and turning down your thermostat a few degrees can make a difference. If everyone in the state would do the same, the demand on the electric grid would be significantly lower and we’d all have a better chance of avoiding more rolling blackouts.
What we’re doing.
We'll make every effort possible to keep you informed through KGNB radio (AM 1420) and the Herald-Zeitung. However, ERCOT give us very little notice regarding required rolling blackouts. We appreciate your patience, understanding, and efforts to reduce our city's power supply demands.
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