Arctic air brings bitter chill, school delays to area

January 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

The arctic chill is here, and along with it comes bitter cold winds and frigid temperatures throughout the day.

Temperatures in Raleigh are expected to reach 11 degrees by 8 a.m., 19 degrees by noon and 24 degrees by 4 p.m.

“We’ve seen our temperatures drop more than 50 degrees in some areas, it’s incredible,” WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

Temperatures have dropped by 51 degrees in Raleigh, 49 degrees in Greensboro and 48 degrees in Fayetteville within the last 24 hours.

The cold weather prompted Wake, Durham, Cumberland, Johnston, Chapel Hill-Carrboro and numerous other schools districts to open schools two hours later on Tuesday.

WRAL has a full list of school and business delays here.

Roads are not expected to be icy due to the dry air, but the Durham County Sheriff’s Office reported heavy black ice on Holder Road and Broach Road in eastern Durham County as well as in spots across northern Durham County.

The frigid air is being brought in by a polar vortex that caused record lows and the closing of school districts and major roads across the Midwest.

“A polar vortex is rotating, frigid air that tends to hang around the (north and south) poles during the winter, but occasionally pieces of it comes south,” Gardner said. “This year, we’re getting a huge chunk of it that’s coming into the United States and affecting us here. The cold air that should be around the poles has dipped down here and we’re feeling it here. This is a huge, almost historic, cold air mass.”

Central North Carolina is currently under a wind chill advisory as temperatures near single digits. The wind chill at Raleigh-Durham International Airport is expected to remain at -3 degrees until 8 a.m.

“If we hit that single digit mark, it’ll be the first time we did that in 14 years,” Gardner said. “And the last time we did that we had snow on the ground.”

It was 10 degrees in Raleigh at 5:30 a.m. Today’s expected high is 24 degrees but it will feel like 15 degrees due to the wind chill.

Viewers across the area were reporting small power outages, from along N.C. 42 in Willow Springs to around the intersection of Ten-Ten Road and US 401 just south of Raleigh.

“It’s been a little over an hour and the temperature in my house has already dropped 4 degrees,” wrote David Knott, who lives near the intersection, in an e-mail.

Duke Energy Progress reported small power outages across central North Carolina. A transformer explosion knocked out power to about 500 customers near the intersection of Rolesville Road and Wendell Boulevard in Wendell. About 300 customers around the Valley View neighborhood in northern Chatham County were also without power Tuesday morning.

The freezing temperatures heighten concerns for hypothermia – when a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees – and frostbite. At temperatures of 15-30 below, exposed skin can become frostbitten in minutes. Experts advise residents to stay covered when outside, avoid alcohol and contact a doctor if patches of dry, red skin develop.

Area homeless shelters called Monday night a “white flag” night, meaning workers and volunteers were doubling efforts to help those without a warm place to stay. They were putting out extra cots and reaching out to homeless people to let them know they can come in from the cold.

“Every now and then, we’ll find somebody that doesn’t want to come in,” said Rodney McClain of the Durham Rescue Mission, which was at capacity. “They are comfortable where they are. A lot of time they don’t get to see the news, and they don’t know just how cold it will be.”

The Salvation Army shelter in Raleigh normally only offers beds for women with children but have also opened their doors to single women due to the cold weather. The shelter was not at capacity Tuesday morning.

The SPCA of Wake County also reminded residents to bring their pets inside. Even outdoor animals, such as horses, aren’t used to acclimating to such a quick temperature drop.

“A good rule of thumb is that if it is too cold for you outside or cold enough to be uncomfortable without a winter coat, then it is too cold for your pet – even outdoor pets,” said Darci VanderSlik, marketing manager with the SPCA of Wake County.

She said pet owners are legally required to provide shelter for animals, regardless of the weather.

Car batteries are also vulnerable to cold weather. Most batteries under three years old should be able to handle the cold, but it is best to keep a vehicle in a garage to help ensure it will start.

Nick Dealto, who works at Advance Auto Parts on Western Boulevard in Raleigh, also advises drivers to check coolant levels, washer fluid and be ready.

“Make sure you have jumper cables and a roadside assistance bag ready just in case you run into a scenario where the battery does die,” Dealto said.

Cold weather also increases the likelihood for trouble with home water pipes. Here are some tips to help keep pipes from freezing:

- Have regular pipe maintenance done – at least once year.
- Regularly change filters around the house.
- Drip faucet so pipes don’t burst. (Drip only one faucet in the house. Choose one close to an exterior wall so pipes don’t freeze)
- Open cabinet doors where pipes are so they can feel the heat from the home.
- Turn off the outdoor sprinkler system.
- Detach the water hose from the outdoor faucet.
- Get an outdoor faucet protector. (An alternative is to wrap a rag around the faucet and secure it with tape)

If the pipes are already frozen, AAA suggests:
- If the faucet is turned on and nothing comes out, leave the faucets on and call a plumber.
- Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. It could cause a fire.
- Pipes may be thawed using warm air from a hair dryer. Warm the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
- If water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house. Leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure family members know where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.

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