Protect yourself, your pets from frigid temperatures

Published 9:34 am Thursday, January 8, 2015

Photos by Brandon Hicks With forecast lows in the single digits, the Tennessee Valley Authority is predicting a high demand for power usage during the cold snap. To help meet the demand, all of TVA’s available generating resources, like Wilbur Dam shown here, are being used to meet the peak power demand.

Photos by Brandon Hicks
With forecast lows in the single digits, the Tennessee Valley Authority is predicting a high demand for power usage during the cold snap. To help meet the demand, all of TVA’s available generating resources, like Wilbur Dam shown here, are being used to meet the peak power demand.

As the region prepares for the first arctic blast of 2015, local officials are offering tips on how to weather the frigid forecast.
With temperatures plunging into the single digits this morning, the polar air presented some health and safety risks for people. One group that is more at risk is senior citizens who are more susceptible to the colder weather and freezing temperatures.
“Winter can be a difficult time, as the harsh conditions especially impact seniors,” said Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead,Inc. “We want to make sure seniors and their loved ones are aware of simple ways they can stay safe and warm throughout the season.”
Some tips to stay safe during the cold weather include setting the thermostat for at least 65 degrees to make sure homes are adequately heated; installing a carbon monoxide detector and checking to make sure the home has adequate insulation.
Home Instead also recommends minimizing drafts by filling old socks with sand and using them to block drafty windowsills and door jams. To maintain heat at night, doors to unused rooms should be closed, as well as curtains over windows. Extra blankets and sheets should be added to the bed.
When venturing outside, wear layers and make sure your head is covered.
People aren’t the only ones who have to face the fury of winter; pets also need to be protected from the cold temperatures.
“If it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for them,” said Lauren Kennedy, veterinarian at Elizabethton Veterinary Clinic.
For animals that have to be outside, Kennedy recommended making sure the pet has adequate shelter with fresh bedding, such as pine chips or straw. She also urged pet owners to keep an eye on their animals’ food and water to make sure the pet does not have to do without.
“Keep an eye out to make sure the water does not get frozen,” she said. “That is a really big thing when it gets this cold.”
Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter employee Wendy Mathes agreed with those suggestions. Mathes added that outside housing for pets should have a floor to better maintain the heat inside the shelter.
Mathes explained pine chips or straw would make better bedding for an outside pet because those materials would be less likely to freeze.
“Those are a lot better than blankets, because when the blankets get wet, they will freeze,” she said. “The blankets will get wet because of the dog moving in and out of their dog house during the day, or they will drag their blanket out into the yard, play with it and then it will freeze. With pine chips, they can really snuggle down in them and get warm.”
Another thing Kennedy urged pet owners to be mindful about is the effects snow melt or road salt will have on their pets’ foot pads.
“It is abrasive to those sensitive areas, so owners should be sure to clean their pets feet after bringing them in from a walk if they have come in contact with those,” she said.
Once all the residents in a home are warm and safe, there are some considerations that need to be remembered to protect the plumbing of that structure.
Elizabethton Director of Utilities Johann Coetzee said there are some simple steps people can take to keep their pipes from freezing during the cold spells.
Coetzee said crawl spaces under homes should be insulated and doors to these spaces should be closed when the temperature drops. Keeping the water moving through the pipes keeps those from freezing.
“It helps to run a small amount of water to keep the pipes from freezing,” Coetzee said. “You do have to be careful with that because it can run up the water bill.”
Coetzee added all hoses attached to outside faucets should be removed. He explained if the hose is attached to the faucet, the water cannot drain. It will then freeze and break the exterior faucet on the home.
The Elizabethton Water Department is also prepared to respond to any water pipe emergencies during these low temperatures. Coetzee said equipment has been made ready and fueled up to be able to respond quickly if needed.
“If we have a water line break in this cold weather, we would want to get that fixed as quickly as possible,” he said. “It is more of a challenge to work when it is this cold. Being ready helps us respond more quickly and efficiently.”
When the mercury falls, the demand on electricity increases, which led the Tennessee Valley Authority to ask local utilities to request their customers follow voluntary energy reductions until the temperatures return to above freezing.
Elizabethton Electric Department General Manager Rob Toney said the use reductions were voluntary since the demand on the TVA infrastructure has not reached a critical level. If a further strain was placed on the energy grid, local utilities would have had to take further action to conserve energy.
During voluntary reduction periods, customers are asked to lower their thermostats by a few degrees and to hold off on non-essential power use until peak demand times have passed. Toney said peak times are between 6-9 a.m. and 5-10 p.m.
Toney said during colder weather the demand on the electric grid will be doubled or more, depending on how much use is generated by the customers.
“It is colder and everyone turns up the heat at the same time and it drives up demand,” he said. “People get up for work and come home for the day around the same time. There is a lot more demand to supply.”
Toney said the voluntary restrictions were likely to be lifted when temperatures return to more seasonal levels. He said while this cold burst will put additional strain on the system, it is worse when the cold is a more lengthy experience.
“When it gets really tough is when it is an extended cold spell,” he said. “The TVA is being precautionary and we appreciate that.”
During extremely cold weather, Toney said customers do not have to worry about having electric service disrupted for nonpayment. He said it is the department’s policy to not do any disconnects when the temperature is below 32 degrees.
Because the low temperatures are expected to create a peak demand for power, all of TVA’s available generating resources are being used to make sure the lights, and heaters, stay on.
“When it’s below freezing, each time the temperature drops one degree another 400 megawatts of electricity is needed for our system,” said Jacinda Woodward, senior vice president of TVA Transmission and Power Supply. “Setting your thermostat 2-3 degrees below normal this evening and Thursday morning can really help TVA manage the high power demand during this challenging time.”
The TVA predicted a peak power demand of 32,600 megawatts of electricity would occur this morning, which officials said was comparable to the 32,500 megawatts usage during the height of the cold wave on Jan. 7 2014.
To help prepare for the high demand for electricity during this cold spell, the TVA issued an internal “conservative operation alert” on Monday which delays any non-emergency maintenance activities at TVA’s generation and transmission facilities to make sure all resources are available.
The National Weather Service office in Morristown is predicting day time highs will rise as we move toward the weekend with Saturday’s forecast high at 43 degrees. However, according to forecasters, the lows will remain in the teens at night during that time frame.
Officials with the NWS office issued a wind chill warning for our area through today, saying wind chill values could dip down to zero degrees or as low as 10 below, with the coldest values occurring in the higher elevations.
“Wind chills this low can result in frost bite and lead to hypothermia or even death is precautions are not taken,” the NWS warning said. “Those venturing outside should dress warmly, making sure all exposed skin is covered.”

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