- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

The National Weather Service said North Carolina faced “life threatening cold” as it issued a wind chill advisory for area stretching across most of the state.

Forecasters on Thursday also issued a wind chill warning for the mountains along and near the Tennessee border effective until Friday morning.

Wind chill values could dip to as low as 10 below zero in the northeastern counties to 30 degrees below zero in the mountains.

While service providers and school systems prepared for the brutal cold, at least one area found cause for celebration.

MOUNTAIN SHELTER

In the middle of the afternoon on Thursday, it was 0 degrees with a wind chill of 25 below zero thanks to 30 mph winds in the town of Boone.

Inside and away from the chill, Tina Krause, executive director of Hospitality House of Boone Area, was preparing to help protect the homeless and others in need.

With an average daily population of 95, Krause said her agency would set up cots in the conference room. She said the shelter is operating under “winter overflow” plans and can take another 20 to 30 more people.

“We’ll just continue to take people as long as there’s space,” Krause said.

Krause said local residents responded when Hospitality House put out a call for additional cots.

For people who need help inside their own homes, Krause said Hospitality House provides crisis assistance for families who are either running low on heating oil or have had their power shut off.

But to be sure the shelter itself can keep people warm, Krause said the heat pump thermostat has been dialed back 5 degrees to keep from overworking it.

WHO NEEDS A PLUMBER?

Everyone has heard the advice to protect your plumbing in extreme cold weather, but Damion Pirolli, customer service representative for Charlotte Plumbers, says there’s one thing every homeowner needs to know, whether it’s frigid or humid.

“Probably the biggest thing is, before you have a problem, is knowing how to shut your water off,” Pirolli said. “We get a lot of people who are calling and panicking. If you know how to shut the water off as soon as you notice the pipe’s frozen, you can get over and shut the water off and limit the amount of damage. If you don’t know how to do that, you’re just asking for a problem.”

Pirolli added that knowing where the valve shutoff is will also prevent the frantic overnight emergency call and allow the homeowner to address the problem during daylight hours. He also said every member of his 15-man staff will be on call to handle emergencies.

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS WON’T GO AROUND

Jeff Harris, transportation director for the Guilford County Schools, said that when the forecast calls for winter weather he is out on the roads as early as 3 a.m. looking for slick spots. But after several days of frigid temperatures in a row, as have occurred this week, he knows there will be problems.

“Anything that is melting today will obviously refreeze tonight,” Harris said Thursday.

In addition to the icy roads, temperatures in the single digits can drain the batteries on school buses, as well as freeze fuel lines and air hoses. He said his crews have been cranking up and running buses Thursday in an attempt to keep them working.

“The last thing we want is children out waiting on a bus that is late because of mechanical problems,” Harris said.

Cold air can also cause problems for school buildings, as pipes burst and the coils on heating units freeze.

NO CLASS, AGAIN

Wake County public schools canceled classes on Friday, a day after parents were upset over the late announcement that Thursday’s classes were canceled as well.

System officials announced the decision to cancel Thursday’s classes at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday. That was three hours after adjacent districts had made the call on holding classes.

WRAL in Raleigh reported that the school system used its Twitter account for a day-long trivia contest, and told subscribers to check the site before bedtime to find out if classes would be held.

“The decision to cancel class is not one we take lightly,” Wake County Public School System spokeswoman Lisa Luten said. “While there was only a small hope of being able to delay classes, transportation officials were asked to drive many of the secondary roads again to check conditions after dark. District leaders then gathered that information for a final evaluation Wednesday evening before deciding to cancel class.”

The announcement to cancel Friday’s classes came around 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

IT’S ALL DOWNHILL

In the western edge of North Carolina, ski resorts say the cold weather has been a boon.

There are a number of ski resorts and schools in Blowing Rock, Boone and others places in the Appalachian Mountains.

The conditions have been perfect - “It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Jim Cottrell, ski school director for Appalachian Ski Mountain.

“This is a very weather sensitive business. And when we have cold and snow … we are definitely going to see an increase,” he said.

Cottrell said last weekend “you couldn’t get a room in Boone or Blowing Rock.” He expects something similar this weekend.

At the ski school, they take reservations for private lessons and programs. “We expect a lot of people to be up here this weekend,” he said.

POWER PLEA

Officials with Duke Energy Carolinas are issuing another plea to customers to continue to reduce their electricity use to help avoid potential high-energy demand and stress on the electrical grid caused by frigid temperatures.

The utility said in a statement that another day of historic low temperatures is expected on Friday, noting that the most critical time to reduce electricity usage is between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.

According to the utility, warmer temperatures, area schools delaying openings, customer conservation efforts and activation of the company’s voluntary energy demand programs lessened demand on Thursday and helped Duke Energy meet its customers’ needs.

____

Mitch Weiss and Skip Foreman reported from Charlotte. Michael Biesecker reported from Raleigh.


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