Icy mix on tap today

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin

Salisbury Post

Rowan-Salisbury School System officials announced Wednesday night that schools would be closed today in anticipation of a winter storm expected to move into the county this morning.

This is an optional teacher workday for the system.

As of midnight Wednesday, Cabarrus County schools were planning to operate on a two-hour delay today.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service had expected it to begin snowing between 7 and 10 this morning.

Meteorologist Harry Gerapetritis said the precipitation should begin as snow, changing into sleet and freezing rain by noon. “We’re looking at snow accumulation in the morning hours on the order of an inch or 2,” he said.

By this afternoon, Gerapetritis, who works in the National Weather Service office at the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, said there could be a quarter of an inch of ice on power lines and trees.

Temperatures could rise above freezing around 3 p.m., he said, but the window of opportunity for higher temperatures will be narrow before temperatures begin falling toward night.

“It looks as if you probably will experience significant icing at some point tomorrow,” he said. Even if temperatures do rise above freezing, Gerapetritis said the ice accumulation already on bridges, trees and power lines will not have time to melt “so that could lead to some power outages.”

If, on the other hand, the temperatures remain colder than forecasted, he said there could be a prolonged period of snow. “The snowfall would be deeper,” he said, “and you would not see as much icing on the lines and damage and that sort of thing.”

Energy United, which serves approximately 116,000 electricity customers in 19 North Carolina counties, offers these tips for people who experience power outages.

If your lights go out, look outside and see if your neighbors are also in the dark. If they’re not, check your fuse box or circuit breaker to see if you can locate the problem. If the problem is not with your fuse box or circuit breaker, call your power company to report the outage.

Outages that occur in severe weather, or that last for an extended period of time, can place a heavy burden on the system at the moment power is restored. To prevent an overload on the system and possibly another outage, take these steps:

* Turn off every inside light except one.

* Turn down your thermostat.

* In cold weather, close windows and drapes to save heat. Pick one room on the warm side of the house (preferably one with a fireplace). Close the door to the rest of the house and use blankets to insulate your windows.

* If the outage lasts more than 60 minutes, turn off your electric water heater.

* Make sure your kitchen range is off, both the surface and the oven. Never use it for heat. Turn off all unnecessary appliances.

* Avoid opening the freezer door. A full, free-standing freezer will keep food at freezing temperatures for about two days, a half-full freezer for about one day.

* For more information about food safety during and after a power outage, call the county office of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service or dial the USDA Food Safety Hotline at 1-800-535-4555.

* If you see a downed power line, stay away and call your power company at once.

* Leave your porch light on so power company workers will know when your power has been restored.

* When the power comes back on, slowly switch your appliances and lights back on and gradually return your thermostat to its normal setting.

When severe weather causes power outages, employees of Energy United begin working immediately to restore service as quickly as possible. Primary lines serving hundreds of customers are serviced first, then the secondary lines serving just a few customers.

Medical facilities and individuals on life-support systems are given top priority. If outages and damage become severe, co-op crews from throughout the state will be dispatched to any hard hit electric cooperative to aid in power restoration.

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Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or kchaffin@salisburypost.com.