Chattanooga: Cold snaps city residents

Chattanooga: Cold snaps city residents

January 17th, 2009 by Adam Crisp in Local Regional News

Friday's low temperature of 9 degrees brought Chattanooga to a halt.

Cold and hardened earth broke pipes, and frigid overnight temperatures sent the city's homeless for indoor warmth.

The Hamilton County Schools system canceled classes and streets were vacant as Chattanooga's morning low plummeted, tying a record low set in 1972.

The last time the mercury fell so low was Jan. 24, 2003, according to the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn., but relief may be in sight.

"If we can just get through the next few days, the weather should be pretty nice," said David Gaffin, a weather service forecaster.

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis<br> Tobey Blevins, with Tennessee American Water Company, center, pumps water from a hole at the corner of McCallie and National Avenues as Eddie Martin, left, and Jerry Haddock look on as the crew works to find and repair a leak in a two inch water line on Friday. The single digit temperatures caused several leaks in local water lines.

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis<br> Tobey Blevins, with Tennessee...

Temperatures were expected to hover around 13 degrees overnight Friday, but Saturday's daytime high was expected be around 41, just 7 degrees below the normal for this year. By next weekend, temperatures may be in the 60s, Mr. Gaffin said.

But before that, there is a slight chance for snow Sunday morning. It's going to be most noticeable in higher elevations, Mr. Gaffin said. It likely will stick to the ground, but it may melt by midday, he said.

BURDENED BY THE COLD

Warmer weather would be good news at the city's homeless shelters, where employees have been working around the clock to service their clients.

"Usually the people who would just camp out or hide behind a building are coming in because it's so cold," said Jans Christensen, a spokesman for the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

That agency usually just serves meals and then closes, but when the temperatures began to plummet earlier in the week it opened its doors for overnight guests. They had 70 homeless people spending the night Thursday.

The same goes for the Salvation Army. Usually it allows the homeless to stay in its day center where it serves food and drinks, but no full meals.

"It's so cold, we are allowing them to stay all day and night," spokeswoman Kimberly George. "No one should be out in this weather. It's just too cold."

The Salvation Army also is serving three meals a day. Both charities, which had complained of funding shortages because of the economy, say this weather is another burden on their finances.

"We need monetary support, of course, because of the extra expenses that come with operating around the clock," Ms. George said. But the shelter also needs cold-weather items such as coats and blankets as well as coffee, which is being served by the gallon, and small toiletries - the variety given by hotels would work fine, she said.

Shelters in the region also are seeing an increase in demand, said Roy Johnson, president and founder of Providence Ministries in Dalton, Ga., another homeless shelter.

"We're seeing a lot of people coming in for meals, but the shelter is just staying steady," he said.

PIPES AND POWER

Around Chattanooga, the cold weather broke city water mains. Pipes were broken when cold and hardened earth shifted and cracked them in weak areas, said Kim Dalton, spokeswoman for Tennessee-American Water Co.

No one was without water service, Ms. Dalton said. Employees were able to reroute the pipes, but she said the workers spent the entire day below roads, getting wet in subfreezing temperatures.

"Our guys are dedicated to their jobs, just like EMTs or police. Even when it's cold we're out there making sure people have water," Ms. Dalton said.

Friday's frigid temperatures also pushed electricity demand to a record wintertime high in the Tennessee Valley.

Demand for power from the Tennessee Valley Authority rose to 32,570 megawatts at 8 a.m. Friday when temperatures across TVA's seven-state region averaged 9 degrees Fahrenheit, agency spokesman John Moulton said.

Friday's peak demand broke TVA's previous wintertime record set a year ago. Mr. Moulton said TVA put all of its generating units in a power supply alert to limit any interruptions in generation.

"We had adequate supply to meet the demand and continue to meet the high load levels," he said.

With temperatures staying below freezing for more than two days, TVA personnel expect also to break the agency's wintertime energy sales record for an entire day of electricity sales, Mr. Moulton said.

TVA's power use record was set in August 2007 when air conditioning use pushed peak demand to 33,482 megawatts. More than 90 percent of all homes and businesses have electric air conditioning, but nearly half of all homes in the region rely upon natural gas, propane or other heating sources besides electricity, according to the Energy Information Institute.

Mr. Moulton said TVA personnel expect temperatures to moderate and return to more normal January levels next week.

Staff writer Dave Flessner contributed to this story.


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